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Discoverers of 


Oxford University Press 

London Edinburgh Glasgow New York 

Toronto Melbourne Cape Town Bombay 

Humphrey Milford Publisher to the University 




Discoverers of 


The Wineland Sagas 

translated & discussed 

By G. M. Gathorne-Hardy, F.R.G.S. 



Gi 3 












INTRODUCTION .... . Page 7 


Chronological Summary ...... 18 

Genealogical Table 20 

i. Eric the Red and the colonization of Greenland 21 

* 2. The adventure of Bjarni Herjulfson ... 25 

3. Of Thorbjorn Vifilson .... 28 

4. Gudrid comes to Greenland .... 30 

5. Gudrid and the Sibyl -33 

6. Leif goes to Norway ...... 37 

* 7. Leif discovers Wineland 40 

* 8. Thorvald s Voyage and Death . . . -.45 
9. Thorstein s Unsuccessful Venture ... 49 

* 10. The Expedition of Thorfin Karlsefni . . 52 
ii. Freydis . . 67 

Appendix of Alternative Versions and Supplementary 

Passages ........ 73 

* Sections in Part I marked thus are those dealing with 
the discovery and exploration of America. 



1 . Nature of the Evidence .... Page 88 

2. Discrepancies of the Flatey Book . . 113 

3. The Stories as History 147 

4. Skraelings . 173 

5. The Daegr and Eyktarstad Problems. . . 196 

6. The Voyages. General Considerations . . 221 

7. The Voyages in Detail : Bjarni, Leif, Thorvald 244 

8. Karlsefni s Expedition 261 

9. Aftermath and Conclusion 282 


INDEX . 301 


THE study which has culminated in the production 
of the present volume had been pursued for a number 
of years, and the work itself was approaching com 
pletion, when the events of August 1914 necessitated 
its abandonment, while the writer was called away 
from literary tasks by the claims of active service. It 
is hoped, however, that the consequent delay has not 
been altogether regrettable. In the first place, it has 
enabled a fresh eye to be cast over what had previously 
been written, with the result that some modifications 
have been made, which are, it is hoped, an improve 
ment. In the second place, the author found on his 
return that there had been during the interval con 
siderable additions to the literature dealing with his 
subject. Worthy of special mention among works too 
recent to have been read before the outbreak of 
war are the monographs of Babcock (1913), Hovgaard 
(1915), and Steensby (1918); these with Finnur 
Jonsson s important paper in the A ar bog for Nordisk 
Oldkyndighed, &c. for 1915, while they have not 
modified the views hereinafter expressed, have been 
deemed worthy of close consideration and have necessi 
tated a considerable amount of re-writing : the minor 
works of Neckel (1913), Kolischer (1914), Bruun(i9i5), 
and Mr. Maurice Hewlett s work of fiction based on 
these sagas under the title of Gudrid the Fair (1917) 
also fall within the same period. The last-named 

s : :;;vi:N.-r-&.6 D u c T i o N 

book, while making no pretence to deal scientifically 
with the subject, has been of particular interest to the 
present writer, from the fact that its author comes 
to the same conclusion with regard to Karlsefni s 
ultimate landfall as that advocated in these pages. 
The possibility of such an interpretation of the data 
supplied in the sagas is admitted, in a rather hesitating 
manner, in the History of the State of Neiu York, 
by Yates and Moulton (1824); with this exception the 
writer has been unable to trace any other authority 
taking the view which he has independently formed. 
Yates and Moulton appear to have depended for their 
information on a translation from a Swedish book, 
Schroder s Om Skandinav ernes fordna upptacktsresor 
till NordAmerika(\lps^, 1818), which seems to have 
been based exclusively on the version of the story 
contained in the Flatey Book ; this does not by itself 
provide enough information to enable a definite 
conclusion to be formed. 

In spite of a considerable bibliography, the early 
Norse voyages to America provide a still unexhausted 
field for investigation and discussion. So far are the 
authors who have dealt with the subject from reaching 
final and unchallenged conclusions that it may almost 
be said that each fresh commentator provides new 
matter for controversy. Apart from the fascinating 
problem of attempting to locate on the map the 
various parts of the American continent visited by the 
first explorers, the historic value of the evidence has 
been the subject of the most varied estimates, though 
it may be said that nowadays no student of the subject 
has remained completely sceptical. The relative impor 
tance to be attached to the different versions of the 


narrative has also been much debated, and will no 
doubt continue to be so, though on this point most 
recent critics will be found arrayed in the opposite 
camp to the present writer. As regards the precise 
situation of the Norse discoveries, most points from 
Northern Labrador and even Baffin s Land to well 
down the Eastern coastline of the United States have 
their advocates, who by a judicious selection of the 
evidence have all managed to find something to say in 
favour of their respective points of view. In these 
circumstances it is felt that no apology is needed from 
one who has given the matter close and protracted 
study, if he ventures to add his quota to the 

The topic is moreover one on which the man in the 
street at any rate in England stands in considerable 
need of enlightenment. There are probably few 
acknowledged historical facts on which the general 
public is more surprisingly ignorant. Considering that 
the available data compare favourably with what is 
known of the later discoveries of Cabot and Corte 
Real, it is regrettable to find, as any one will who takes 
the trouble to mention the matter to a dozen friends 
selected at random, that to most of them the fact that 
the Norsemen visited America is quite unknown, while 
by the remainder it is probably regarded as a vague 
legend, containing perhaps a kernel of truth, but to be 
ranked no higher than the Welsh tale of Madoc 
and similar insubstantial traditions. 

When Dr. Nansen s In Northern Mists appeared, 
three allusions were made to it in Punch, the point 
of which was in every case that the eminent explorer 
had proved that the honour of the first discovery 


of America belonged to his compatriots. Of course, as 
a matter of fact, the proof was forthcoming long ago, 
and Dr. Nansen, so far from adding to it, is one of the 
most sceptical of the authorities dealing with the 
subject ; but here, as is usually the case, our leading 
humorous paper has faithfully represented the views 
and the knowledge of the average educated man. 

It is perhaps not altogether surprising that the circle 
of the initiated has been so restricted. The principal 
works dealing with the question, with very few excep 
tions, are either written in foreign tongues, or entombed 
in the pages of inaccessible scientific periodicals or in 
works mainly concerned with a wider field, or have 
been published so long ago that as the life of books 
goes nowadays the man in the street can hardly 
be expected to have read or to have remembered 
them. Reeves Finding of Wine land the Good, one of 
the likeliest books on the subject to have fallen into the 
hands of the general reader, is now more than twenty 
years old. How many books other than standard 
classics of a similar age, come under the eyes of 
members of the ordinary public ? 

It must be confessed, too, that a taste for Icelandic 
literature is not widely prevalent in this country. The 
- man in the street, if the author s experience of him 
is typical, does not find the method of story-telling 
which enthralled contemporary Icelandic audiences at 
all to his mind. He cannot stomach the long genea 
logies, on which no doubt the original reader or listener 
insisted in order that he might add to the story the 
flavour of personal interest arising from the inclusion 
of ancestors, friends, or acquaintances. He gets 
confused and irritated by names of unfamiliar sound, 


with uncouth nicknames attached, many of the former 
closely resembling one another. When he has at 
length managed to become engrossed in some thread 
of the story, he finds himself suddenly switched off to 
follow the fortunes of other characters, the previous 
mention of whom he had forgotten, and finally losing 
his bearings he throws the book down in disgust. The 
present writer has on this account considered carefully 
whether it would not have been better to transpose the 
two parts of this work, putting the translation last, but 
he feels that such an arrangement would be illogical, 
and would make the arguments used in discussing the 
question much more difficult to follow. As a sop 
to the indolent he has, however, marked in the table 
of contents the parts of the story dealing with the 
American discoveries, though he feels personally that 
those who skip the remainder will miss some very 
interesting matter, including the vivid description of 
the sibyl s seance. 

It is hoped that it is not doing the average English 
man an injustice to say that the word * saga generally 
conveys to his mind an utterly false idea. Very often 
he seems to think of a saga as poetry ; almost invari 
ably as romance. In view of this it is perhaps 
necessary to point out that almost all we know of the 
early history of Scandinavia, and all that we know 
in the cases of Iceland and Greenland, is derived from 
w r hat can only be described as saga literature. Saga 
simply means story, originally a story told by word 
of mouth, often in the lifetime of those whose achieve 
ments it celebrated ; and the great mass of the earlier 
sagas aimed at historical truth, not of course at the 
scientific accuracy of modern times, but at combining 


adherence to facts with the exigencies of picturesque 
narrative, like the Books of Kings or any early 
historical works. In fact, as will be indicated later on 
(Part II, Chapter I), the historical saga of Iceland 
compares favourably with the early history of most 
other countries, for a variety of reasons. 

Probably the erroneous ideas current on the subject 
arise to some extent from what may be called the 
Morris tradition in translating sagas into English. 
The associations of the quaint language used in this 
convention are poetical and consequently romantic ; the 
words are obsolete in modern prose, whereas the 
language of pure saga of the historical period is prosaic 
to the verge of baldness, the statement of facts so 
direct and terse as to be almost crude. Why then 
should we be told that men * hove into a cheaping- 
stead rather than that they came to a market ? Why 
should we have hight for named, mickle for much 
or many or great, may for girl or maiden, * yeasay 
for consent, and so forth ? It serves no purpose 
except to show that at some bygone period Scandina 
vian left its traces on the English language, and 
produces an idea of the character of the literature 
translated which is the very reverse of the true one. 

What one should aim at reproducing in a transla 
tion and particularly a translation with an historical 
purpose is surely the effect produced on the audience 
for which the original was composed. It may be right 
in translating Homer to avoid crude modernism, for 
Homer was archaic to the people of any known 
historical period, but when we have one Icelander telling 
another how his grandfather or even his nearer con 
temporary fared at the hands of other men living under 


precisely the same conditions as the listener, surely it 
is wrong to make use of English calling insistently and 
continually for the help of a glossary. 

Now, whether or no the present writer can be success 
ful in popularizing any Icelandic translation, to those 
who complain, as some may, that his rendering is 
crudely modern, he replies that such is his deliberate 
intention, for so it seems to him did the old Icelanders ; 
tell their plain unvarnished tales. Art there was no ! 
doubt, in the arrangement of the story, an art which 
kept in mind the demands of the contemporary audience 
and which would in all probability have been modified 
to captivate a different taste. But the diction is 
throughout more straightforward, realistic, and un 
adorned than any other to be met with in literature. 
And as this treatment seems appropriate to the 
narration of historical facts, so as to bring conviction 
to the mind of the hearer, the author has perhaps even 
gone too far in his desire to emphasize this characteristic. 

In one respect he has certainly taken a liberty. The 
incidental impromptu verses which are incorporated 
in sagas would, in a literal rendering, be almost as 
incomprehensible as in the original Icelandic. Nearly 
every phrase, according to the convention of the time, 
involves a riddling circumlocution, something like 
Samson s Out of the eater came forth meat . For 
example, the hymn of Herjulfs Hebridean companion, 
a verse of which is given in the chapter on Bjarni, 
would read in a literal translation somewhat as 
follows : 

I pray the blameless monk-trier to assist my travels, 
may the lord of the high hall of the earth hold over 
me the hawk s perch. Here the blameless monk-trier 


is God, who tries the hearts of good men, the high hall 
of the earth is the sky or heaven, and most obscure of 
all the hawk s perch is the hand, an allusion to falconry. 
Only after unravelling these riddles does one arrive 
at the true meaning Sinless God, who triest the 
hearts of thy saints, guide my wanderings ; Lord of 
heaven, hold thy hand over me and so protect me, 
This ultimate meaning has been here paraphrased metri 
cally, sacrificing the characteristics of early Scandinavian 

verse in the interests of a clear and intelligible historical 


narrative. And in the same way the translations of 
other incidental verses aim at reproducing the effect 
on the mind of an intelligent listener, rather than the 
mere words which produced that effect. Apart from 
these cases, the writer, while allowing himself a certain 
amount of freedom in passages upon which nothing 
turns, has sacrificed every other consideration to literal- 
ness where any argument may depend on the text. 

A word or two remains to be said about the arrange 
ment adopted. As the reader will discover, the material 
is provided by three texts, 1 embodying two independent 
versions which are in some cases difficult to reconcile. 
The aim has been to present a consecutive narrative 
drawn from all these sources indifferently. In only one 
case, however, has the order of events as given in any 
version been consciously interfered with. The Saga 
of Eric the Red, and H auk s Book which, as will be 
seen, is substantially the same version both begin 
with a chapter in which the only relevant name is that 
of Thorbjorn Vifilson, which appears in the concluding 
sentence. The object of the chapter is to introduce 

1 Hereinafter referred to as the Saga of Eric the Red, Hauk s Book, 
and the Flatey Book. See Part II. Chapter I. 


this character, whose daughter, Gudrid, may be de 
scribed as the heroine of the story. 

But this object is likely to be defeated with an 
English audience if the chapter is kept in its original 
position. For the saga, having just mentioned Thor 
bjorn, turns off characteristically to deal with Eric 
the Red and the colonization of Greenland, so that 
by the time Thorbjorn is introduced again the reader 
is likely to have forgotten all about him. It has 
consequently been thought better to begin with Eric 
and his wanderings, following this up with the descrip 
tion of Bjarni Herjulfson s voyage and discoveries from 
the Flatey Book, which are intimately connected with 
Eric s colonization of Greenland both in date and cir 
cumstances. The author has then reverted to the actual 
beginning of the saga, connecting thus in one coherent 
narrative all parts of the story dealing with Thorbjorn 
Vifilson. Having brought this character and his 
daughter to Eric s new home in Greenland, the original 
saga and the present edition alike turn to Leif Ericson, 
and describe his voyage to the court of Olaf Trygg- 
vason in Norway. Inasmuch as the accidental 
version of Leif s discovery of America is incompatible 
with the introduction into the main story of the fuller 
account in the Flatey Book, the former has been 
relegated to the appendix and the latter incorporated 
in the principal text. It will be seen from the chapter 
on the Flatey Book that this is in the author s opinion 
the most accurate historical treatment, but this is not 
the motive of his action. Whether the Flatey Book 
be right or wrong in ascribing Leif s journey to a de 
liberate project, it contains by far the fullest account of 
his expedition, and for this reason merits a place in the 


main course of the story. But it cannot be included 
without excluding or removing to a note or appen 
dix anything which conflicts with it. In the same 
way an account of the death of Thorvald Ericson which 
conflicts with the version of the Flatey Book has been 
taken out of the main text, and the fuller narrative 

In every case, however, where an alternative version 
of any incident or episode exists, care has been taken 
to give it in the appendix ; so that the reader may have 
all the material available for forming his own views on 
the question. Nothing is altogether omitted. The effect 
of what has been done is to provide a consecutive 
narrative, containing a fuller account of the Wineland 
voyages than is comprised in any one version, which 
may be summarized as follows : 

Eric the Red and his father come to Iceland. The 
latter dies. Eric marries : Leif is born. Eric makes 
the country too hot to hold him, and explores and 
colonizes Greenland. He is accompanied by one 
Herjulf, whose son, Bjarni, making an attempt to join 
him, is driven accidentally to America, whence he 
eventually returns to Greenland. Many years elapse 
during which we may suppose Leif Ericson to be 
growing up. During the interval we return to Iceland, 
and follow the fortunes of Thorbjorn Vifilson and his 
daughter Gudrid, up to the time when they too emigrate 
to Greenland. Next comes Leif s voyage to Norway 
and his conversion, followed by his voyage of explora 
tion in America and his rescue of Gudrid among others 
from shipwreck, somewhere on the Greenland coast. 
This is followed by Thorvald Ericson s expedition and 
death, his brother Thorstein s unsuccessful venture, 


the marriage of the latter to Gudrid and his death, 
and then by the arrival of Karlsefni in Greenland, his 
marriage to Gudrid, and his voyage to Wineland with 
his -wife and companions. Last of all, we hear of 
another voyage to the new country under the auspices 
of Freydis, the illegitimate daughter of Eric the Red. 

It is hoped that this connecting up of the material 
into one harmonious story couched in ordinary phraseo 
logy may render it more palatable to the general 
public than a more scientific treatment might prove, 
while those whom this volume entices deeper into the 
problems of this fascinating subject will find alternative 
readings and versions of the story included, without 
being unduly obtruded. 

The writer, in fact, while submitting his views to the 
consideration of those who have studied the question, 
hopes especially that some members of the general 
public may find the subject take hold of them in 
precisely the same way in which it captivated him, now 
several years ago. First, interest in the story, the bare 
text without unnecessary note or comment ; secondly 
a conviction of its historical accuracy in main features ; 
thirdly an interest in the problems and discussions 
which it has evoked. Doubtless some will part company 
at each of these three stages, but if such parts of the 
book as they have not skipped have awakened in them 
any interest, the author s task will not have been under 
taken in vain. 










c. 1019. 

C. IO2O. 


c. 1024. 




Ingolf comes to Iceland. 

Birth of Thorgrim, father of Snorri Godi. 

Conjectural date of birth of Eric the Red. 

Birth of Snorri Godi. 

Eric s first exploration of Greenland. 

Foundation of the Greenland colony. Bjarni discovers 


Leif arrives in Norway. His conversion. 
Christianity established in Iceland. Leif converts Greenland. 

Death of Olaf Tryggvason. Bjarni in Norway with 

Eric Jarl. 

Bjarni returns to Greenland. 
Leif discovers Wineland. 
Leif returns. Death of Eric the Red ? and Thori, first 

husband of Gudrid. 
Thorvald s expedition. 
Death of Thorvald. 
Return of Thorvald s expedition. 
Thorstein s expedition and death. 
Gudrid returns to Brattahlid. 
Olaf the Holy sends Rorek to Leif Ericson. 
Karlsefni arrives in Greenland. 
Karlsefni marries Gudrid. They sail to Straumsfjord. 

Snorri born. 
Return of Karlsefni. 
Freydis voyage. 

Mean date of birth of Snorri s children. 
Birth of Ari the Learned. Adam of Bremen director of 

Bremen Cathedral School. 

Death of Svein Esiridson, informant of Adam of Bremen. 
Birth of Bishop Thorlak, grandson of Snorri Karlsefnison. 
Eric, Bishop of Greenland, sails for Wineland. 
Death of Bishop Thorlak. 


1148. Death of Ari the Learned. 

1162. Death of Bishop Bjorn, Karlsefni s great-grandson. 

1 163. Ordination of Bishop Brand I. 
1 201. Death of Bishop Brand I. 

12*85. New land discovered west of Iceland. 

1294. Royal edict making trade with Greenland, &c. a crown 


1299. Hallbera appointed abbess of Reynisness. 
1334. Death of Hauk. 

1347. A ship from Markland reported in Icelandic Annals. 
1370-1387. Compilation of the Flatey Book. 

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This passage is common to all versions of the story. The source 
is Landnamab6k, II. 14, which is accordingly the text followed here. 
The transcript in the Flatey tfook is somewhat abridged. Additional 
matter supplied by any version of the story is given in italics. 

THORVALD, son of Oswald, son of Wolf, son of Oxen- 
Thori, and Eric the Red, his son, came from Jaederen 
(in Norway) to Iceland because they were implicated 
in homicide. Iceland was then largely settled}- They 
took land in Hornstrands, and lived at Drange, where 
Thorvald died. Eric then married Thjodhild, daughter 
of Jorund Atlison and Thorberga the Ship-breasted, 
who at that time was married to Thorbjorn of Haukadal. 
Eric then moved from the north, and cleared ground 
in Haukadal, and settled at Ericstad near Vatshorn. 
Eric and Thjodhild had a son called Leif. * Now Eric s 
slaves sent down a landslide on the house of Valthjof at 
Valthjofstad. Eyulf Saur, a relation of Valthjof, killed 
the slaves near Skeidsbrekka above Vatshorn. For 
this Eric killed Eyulf Saur ; he also killed Hrafn the 
Duellist at Leikskali. Geirstein and Odd of Jorfi, 
Eyulf s relations, prosecuted Eric, whereupon he was 
banished from Haukadal. He then took Brokey and 
Oxney, and lived at Trade in Suderey the first winter. 
At this juncture he lent his hall-beams 2 to Thorgest. 
Afterwards Eric moved to Oxney, and lived at Ericstad. 

1 Flatey Book. 2 See note at end of section. 

22 \ : .; r . : E R : I C y T<,H E RED 

He then asked for his beams and failed to get them. 
Thence arose the quarrels, and fights with Thorgest and 
his party which are related in Erics Saga. 1 [There 
upon he went in search of his beams to Breidabolstad, 
but Thorgest came after him. They fought a short 
way from the farm at D range, where two sons of Thor 
gest fell, and some other men. After this both sides 
had a numerous following. 2 Styr Thorgrim s son 1 
helped Eric in the proceedings^ as did Eyulf of Sviney, 
the sons of Thorbrand of Alptafjord and Thorbjorn 
Vifilson ; but the sons of Thord Gelli and Thorgeir of 
Hitadal, Aslak from Langadal and his son Illugi sided 
with Thorgest. Eric and his men were outlawed at 
the Thorsness sessions. He made ready his ship in 
Ericsvag, but Eyulf hid him in Dimunavag while 
Thorgest and his men were looking for him about the 
islands. Thorbjorn and Eyulf and Styr escorted Eric 
out round the islands. He told them that he intended 
to look for the land which Gunnbjorn, son of Wolf the 
Crow, sighted when he was driven west past Iceland, 
when he discovered Gunnbjorn s skerry. He said that 
he would come back and look up his friends if he dis 
covered the country, and they parted on the best of terms. 
Eric said that he would repay them with such help as 
lay in his power if they should happen to need him. 3 
Eric sailed out to sea past Snaefellsjokul, and arrived 
(on the Greenland coast) near Midjokul, which is now 
called Bldserk 4 ; thence he sailed south along the coast, 
to ascertain if it was habitable there. He was the first 

1 Flatey Book. Cf. Part II, Chapter I, p. 108. 

2 From [ omitted in Flatey Book. 

Hauk s Book and Saga of Eric the Red. 

4 So Landnamab6k, Hauk s Book, and Flatey Book : Eric s Saga 
has Hvitserk . 


winter at Ericsey near the centre of the Western Settle 
ment l ; the following spring he came to Ericsfjord, and 
took himself a site there. He went that summer to 
the western wilds, where he remained a long time 2 : he 
gave names to places there over a wide tract. The 
next winter he was at Ericsholm off Hvarfsgnipa, but 
the third summer he went right up north to Snaefell, 
and into Hrafnsfjord. Then he claimed to have come 
to the head of Ericsfjord. At this point he turned 
back, and he was at Ericsey off the mouth of Ericsfjord 
the third winter. But afterwards, in the summer, he 
returned to Iceland, and arrived in Breidafjord. 

[He passed that winter with Ingolf at Holmlat. In 
the spring he was attacked by Thorgest and his men, 
and Eric was then defeated ; after which they were 
reconciled. 3 That summer Eric went to colonize the 
country which he had discovered, and called it Green 
land, stating as his reason that men would be much 
attracted thither if the country had a good name. 4 

Learned men tell us that the same summer that Eric 
the Red went to colonize Greenland* twenty-five ships 6 set 
sail from Breidafjord and Borgafjord, but only fourteen 
arrived at their destination : some were driven back, 
and some were lost. This was fifteen winters before 
Christianity was legally established in Iceland. Bishop 
Frederic and Thorvald Kodranson came out (to Iceland) 
the same summer / 

1 Flatey Book and some texts of Landnamabok have Eastern 
Settlement . The Eastern Settlement was near Julianehaab, the 
Western near Godthaab. Both were thus on the west coast of 

- Hauk s Book. 3 Omitted in Flatey Book. 

4 What follows is transcribed in the Flatey version only. 

5 Flatey Book. Flatey Book has 35 . 


The following men who went out at this time with 
Eric took land in Greenland: Herjulf took Herjulfs- 
fjord, he lived at Herjulfsness ; Ketil (took) Ketilsfjord; 
Hrafn, Hrafnsfjord; Solvi, Solvadal; Helgi 1 Thorb rand- 
son, Alptafjord ; Thorbjorn Glora, Siglufjord ; Einar, 
Einarsfjord ; Hafgrim, Hafgrimsfjord and Vatnahverfi; 
Arnlaug, Arnlaugsfjord ; but some went to the Western 

NOTE, Hall-pillars. Setstokkar are strictly speaking the horizontal 
beams running between the central hall and the side aisles on to which the 
bedrooms opened. They were frequently carved with the figures of Thor, 
or other heathen deities, and were a sacred and valuable family possession. 
The loan of such articles is difficult to explain, as they would be 
necessary to their owner, and at first sight of no use to a temporary 
borrower. Eric, however, had not at the time settled down in his new 
home ; he would wait to build a suitable house until he had definitely 
fixed upon a site, and in the meantime presumably would not require 
his * setstokkar . It may be that Thorgest represented that he wished 
to copy them, but we know of another use to which such things were 
put, which may throw some light on the matter. When Ingolf, the 
founder of the colony, wished to select a home for himself in Iceland, 
we are told that he threw overboard the pillars of his holy place 
(ondugis sulur) for an omen, saying that he would settle in that place 
where the pillars came to land (Landnama, i. 6). This practice 
was evidently widely adopted, for we read (Landnama, 3. 7) how 
Kraku-Hreidar said that lie would not throw his pillars overboard, 
saying that he considered it a poor thing to determine his plans in 
that way . That Setstokkar were used in the same way as ondugis 
sulur is shown by another passage in Landnama (5. 9) where 
Hastein threw his Setstokkar overboard after the time-honoured 
custom . There is something analogous in the usage, which is 
recorded in various traditions of the Scottish Highlands, whereby 
a man would take up his residence where the packs first fell from 
his horse after he set out on his travels. Thorgest was no doubt 
a native of Iceland, lor he was the son of Stein the Great Sailor, who 
was settled in Breidabolstad, still he may have required supernatural 
aid in the choice of a new home. 

1 Hauk s Landnamabok and some other texts have Snorri . In 
fact Snorri Thorbrandson went out later, as will be seen. 


From the Flatey Book. 

Herjulf was a son of Bard the son of Herjulf, who 
was related to Ingolf the founder of the Iceland colony. 
Ingolf gave land between V6g and Reykjaness to 
Herjulf (the elder) and his people. Herjulf (the 
younger) lived first at Drepstok. He had a wife named 
Thorgerd, and their son was Bjarni, a very promising 
man. He had taken to foreign voyages from his youth. 
This brought him both wealth and credit, and he used 
to spend his winters alternately abroad and with his 
parents. Bjarni soon had a trading-ship of his own, 
and the last winter that he was in Norway was when 
Herjulf undertook the voyage to Greenland with Eric, 
and removed his home there. Herjulf had on board 
his ship a Christian from the Hebrides, who composed 
the Song of the Tidal Wave, which contains this 
verse : 

Almighty God, to whom alone 

The hearts of all thy saints are known, 

Sinless and just, to thee I pray 

To guide me on my dangerous way : 

Lord of the heavens that roof the land, 

Hold o er me thy protecting hand. 

Herjulf settled at Herjulfsness ; he was held in the 
greatest respect. Eric the Red lived at Brattahlid ; he 
was the most distinguished person there, and was obeyed 
by all. Eric s children were Leif, Thorvald, and Thor- 
stein, and a daughter named Freydis, who was married 
to a man named Thorvard : they lived at Garda, where 


the cathedral is now : she was a very haughty woman, 
but Thorvard was a man of no account; she was married 
to him mainly for his money. People were heathen in 
Greenland at that time. 

Bjarni arrived in his ship at Eyrar in the summer of 
the same year in the spring of which his father had 
sailed away. Bjarni was much concerned at the news, 
and would not discharge his cargo. H is crew thereupon 
asked him what he meant to do ; he replied that he 
meant to keep to his custom of passing the winter with 
his parents, and I will , said he, take my ship on to 
Greenland, if you will accompany me . They all said 
that they would abide by his decision ; upon which 
Bjarni remarked, Our voyage will be considered rash, 
since none of us have been in Greenland waters. 7 
Notwithstanding this they put to sea as soon as they 
had got ready, and they sailed for three days before 
the land was laid ; but then the fair wind ceased, and 
north winds and fogs came on, and they did not know 
where they were going, and this went on for many 
days. After this they saw the sun, and so were able to 
get their bearings, whereupon they hoisted sail, and 
after sailing that day they saw land, and they discussed 
among themselves what land this could be, but Bjarni 
said he fancied that it could not be Greenland. They 
asked him whether he would sail to this land or not. 
* I am for sailing in close to the land , he said, and on 
doing so they soon saw that the land was not moun 
tainous, and was covered with wood, and that there were 
small knolls on it, whereupon they left the land on the 
port side, and let the sheet turn towards it. Then 
after sailing two days they saw another land. They 
asked Bjarni if he thought this was Greenland; he 


said that he did not think this was Greenland any more 
than the first place, for it is said that there are very 
large glaciers in Greenland . They soon neared this 
land,, and saw that it was a flat country and covered 
with wood. At this point the fair wind dropped, where 
upon the crew suggested that they should land there : 
but Bjarni would not. They considered that they were 
short both of wood and water. You are in no want 
of either , said Bjarni, but he got some abuse for this 
from his crew. He ordered them to hoist sail, which 
was done, and they turned the bows from the land, and 
sailed out to sea for three days before a south-westerly 
breeze, when they saw the third land : now this land 
was high and mountainous, with ice upon it. So they 
asked if Bjarni would put in there, but he said that he 
would not, since as he put it this land appeared to 
him to be good for nothing. Then without lowering 
sail they kept on their course along the coast, and saw 
that it was an island : once more they turned the bows 
away from the land, and held out to sea with the same 
breeze ; but the wind increased, so that Bjarni told them 
to reef, and not crowd more sail than their ship and 
rigging could stand. They now sailed for four days, 
when they saw the fourth land. Then they asked 
Bjarni if he thought this was Greenland, or not. Bjarni 
replied, This is most like what was told me of Green 
land, and here we will keep our course towards the 
land/ So they did, and that evening they came to 
land under a cape, which had a boat on it, and there on 
that cape lived Herjulf, Bj ami s father, and it is from 
him that the cape received its name, and has since been 
called Herjulfsness. 

Bjarni now went to his father, and gave up voyaging, 


and he was with his parents as long as Herjulf was 
alive, and afterwards he succeeded his parents, and 
lived there. 


This passage is a translation from the text of Eric s saga, collated 
with that of Hauk s Book. Both are an accurate abridgement from 
the Landnmab6k. The words italicized are in Hauk s book only. 

There was a warrior king named Olaf, who was 
called Olaf the White. He was a son of King Ingjald, 
son of Helgi, son of Olaf, son of Gudrod, son of 
Halfdan Whitelegs King of the Uplands. Olaf made 
a raiding voyage in the West, and conquered Dublin 
in Ireland and the Dublin district, and made himself 
king over it. He married Aud the Very Wealthy, 
daughter of Ketil Flatnose, son of Bjo rn Buni, a great 
man from Norway. Their son was called Thorstein 
the Red. Olaf fell in battle in Ireland, whereupon 
Aud and Thorstein went away to the Hebrides. 
There Thorstein married Thurid, daughter of Eyvincl 
Eastman and sister of Helgi the Lean : they had 
many children. Thorstein became a warrior king : he 
joined forces with Earl Sigurd the Rich, son of Eystein 
Glumri. They won Caithness and Sutherland, Ross 
and Moray, and more than half Scotland. Thorstein 
made himself king over this district, until the Scots 
betrayed him, and he fell there in battle. And was 
in Caithness when she heard of Thorstein s fall. 
Thereupon she had a vessel built secretly in the wood, 
and when she was ready she sailed for the Orkneys. 
There she gave in marriage Thorstein the Red s 


daughter Gro, who became the mother of Grelada, 
whom Earl Thorfinn the Skull-cleaver married. After 
this Aud went to look for Iceland ; she had twenty 
free men on board. Aud came to Iceland, and stayed 
the first winter in Bjornhaven with her brother Bjorn. 
Later on Aud took all the Dalelands between the rivers 
Dogurda and Skraumuhlaup, and she lived at Hvamm. 
She had a private chapel at Crossholes, where she had 
a cross set up, for she was baptized and of the true 

With her came out many distinguished men, who 
had been captured in the western raids and were 
nominally slaves. One of these was named Vifil. He 
was a man of good family, who had been taken captive 
beyond the western sea, and was nominally a slave 
until Aud freed him. And when Aud gave homes to 
her crew Vifil asked her why she did not give him 
a home like the rest. Aud said that it would make no 
difference, and remarked that he would be considered 
noble as he was. (Later on) Aud gave him Vifilsdal, 
and he settled there. He had a wife. Their sons 
were Thorgeir and Thorbjorn l : they were promising 
men, and they grew up with their parents. 

1 There must be an error in supposing this Vifil to have been the 
father of Thorgeir and Thorbjorn. Even if we consider Vifil to have 
been captured as a boy, and to belong to the generation of Aud s 
grandson, Olaf Feilan, we know that Thorgeir and Thorbjorn were 
of the generation of Snorri Godi and Thord Horsehead, the great- 
grandsons of Olaf Feilan, as their daughters married the sons of these 
persons respectively. (See Genealogical Table, p. 20.) It will be 
seen, moreover, later on, that Thorbjorn Vifilson looked down on the 
son of a slave, which would hardly have been the case had he been 
one himself. (See/w/, p. 32). 



Translation from the saga of Eric the Red : there are no material 
variations in Hauk s Book. 

Thorgeir Vifilson married, taking Arnora, daughter 
of Einar of Laugarbrekka, the son of Sigmund, the son 
of Ketil Thistil, who had taken Thistilsfjord. Einar 
had another daughter, named Hallveig ; Thorbjorn 
married her, getting with her Laugarbrekkaland at 
Hellisvelli. Thorbjorn moved his home there, and 
became a most respected man. He was a local chief 
(goSi), and had a magnificent estate. The daughter 
of Thorbjorn was called Gudrid ; she was a very 
beautiful woman and most noble in all her behaviour. 

There was a man called Orm, who lived at 
Arnarstapi. He had a wife named Halldis. Orm was 
a well-to-do yeoman, and a great friend of Thorbjorn, 
and Gudrid was brought up for a long time in his 
home. There was a man called Thorgeir, who lived 
at Thorgeirsfell. He was well off for money and had 
been freed from slavery. He had a son named Einar, 
who was a fine man and well-bred ; he was also a great 
dandy. Einar was engaged in the trade between 
Iceland and Norway, a business in which he throve ; 
he stayed alternate winters for an equal time in 
Iceland and Norway. Now at this point it must be 
told how one autumn when Einar was out here he 
went out with his wares along Snaefellness to sell them. 
He came to Arnarstapi. Orm asked him to stop 
there, and Einar accepted, for they were friends. His 
wares were carried into an outhouse. Einar opened 
his wares and showed them to Orm and his household, 


inviting him to take what he liked. Orm accepted, 
saying that Einar was a good sailor and a very lucky 
man. Now as they were engaged over the wares 
a woman passed the door of the outhouse. Einar 
asked Orm, Who may that beautiful woman be who 
passed by the door there ? I have not seen her here 
before. * That is Gudrid, my foster-child, replied 
Orm, daughter of squire Thorbjorn of Laugarbrekka. 
* She would be a good match, said Einar, * but I 
suppose more than one man has come to ask for 
her hand/ Certainly there have been proposals, 
my friend/ answered Orm, * but she is not to be 
snapped up by the first comer ; it is thought that both 
she and her father will prove particular. * However 
that may be, said Einar, * she is the woman I mean 
to ask in marriage, so I wish that you would take up 
the suit for me with her father, and put all your mind 
into the matter to bring it about : for I shall consider 
it a most friendly act on your part. Squire Thorbjorn 
should see that a union between us would be a good 
thing, since he is a man of good standing and of good 
estate, but I am told that his wealth is greatly decreas 
ing, while I and my father have no lack of land or 
goods, and it will be the strongest support to 
Thorbjorn if this proposal is accepted. Certainly 
I consider myself a friend of yours, replied Orm, * but 
still I am unwilling to undertake this suit, for Thorbjorn 
is quick-tempered and a very proud man as well. Einar 
said that he would be content with nothing but that 
his proposal should be conveyed. Orm said he would 
undertake it. Einar went back south till he came 

Some time afterwards Thorbjorn had a harvest 


festivity, as was his custom, for he was a man of a very 
generous disposition. Orm came there from Arnars- 
tapi, and many others of Thorbjorn s friends. Orm 
spoke to Thorbjorn, and said that Einar had arrived 
there from Thorgeirsfell, and that he had grown into 
a promising man. Then Orm started the proposal for 
Einar s hand, and said that it would be a good thing 
for various reasons. It might become a great source 
of strength to you, squire, from the pecuniary point of 
view. Thorbjorn replied, * I did not expect you to 
say such a thing as that I should give my daughter in 
marriage to the son of a slave. You evidently think 
that my wealth is on the wane, and Gudrid shall not 
stay with you any more, since you think her suited to 
so poor a match/ After this Orm and all the other 
guests went home. Gudrid stayed thenceforward with 
her parents, and was at home that winter. 

But in spring Thorbjorn gave a party and a good 
feast was prepared : many people came, and the 
feast was of the best. And at the feast Thorbjorn 
prayed silence and spoke as follows : I have lived 
here a long time, I have experienced men s goodwill 
and love towards me, and I admit that we have got 
on well together in our intercourse. But now my 
fortune is beginning to run low, though it has hitherto 
been thought no unworthy one. Now I will rather 
shift my home than lose my standing, rather quit the 
country than disgrace my family ; so now I am resolved 
to fall back upon the word of my friend Eric the Red, 
which he gave me when we parted in Breidafjord, so 
now I mean to travel to Greenland this summer, if 
things go as I wish. 

This decision created a great sensation among the 


audience, Thorbjo rn had long been popular but they 
felt sure that Thorbjorn, having made this announcement 
so publicly, could not be prevailed upon to draw back. 
Thorbjorn made presents to the guests, after which the 
banquet came to an end and the men went back to 
their homes. Thorbjorn sold his estates and bought 
a ship which was lying at the mouth of Hraunhaven. 
Thirty men accompanied him on his voyage. Orm of 
Arnarstapi and his wife were there, and such of 
Thorbjorn s friends as were unwilling to part with him. 
Thereupon they put to sea. The weather was fine 
when they set out, but when they came into the ocean 
the fair breeze took off and they were caught in a great 
storm, and they made slow progress during the summer. 
Next a plague attacked their party, and Orm and 
Halldis his wife and half of them died. The sea began 
to rise, and they underwent a great deal of exhaustion 
and misery in many ways, yet they reached Herjulfs- 
ness in Greenland just as the winter began. Now a 
man named Thorkel lived at Herjulfsness. He was 
a good man and the principal landowner. He took in 
Thorbjorn and all his crew for the winter. Thorkel 
entertained them liberally. Thorbjorn and all his 
crew were well satisfied. 


Translation from the saga of Eric the Red, collated with Hauk s 
Book. Passages italicized occur only in Hauk s Book. 

At this time there was a great famine in Greenland ; 
those men who had gone fishing had made but a small 
catch, while some did not return. There was in the 
settlement a woman named Thorbjorg; she was a 


prophetess, and was called the little sibyl. She had 
had nine sisters, who were all gifted with prophecy, 
but she alone remained alive. Thorbjorg was accus 
tomed to attend banquets in the winter, and she was 
especially invited by those who were curious about 
their fate or the prospects of the season. And since 
Thorkel was the principal landowner there, he thought 
he would approach her to find out when these times of 
scarcity which were oppressing them would cease. 
Thorkel asked the prophetess to his house, where 
a good welcome was prepared for her, as was customary 
when this sort of woman was received. A throne was 
made ready for her, and a cushion laid beneath, in 
which there were hen s feathers. Now when she came 
in the evening with the man who had been sent to 
fetch her she was attired as follows : she had on 
a blue mantle, which was set with stones down to 
the hem ; she had a rosary of glass on her neck and 
a black hood of lambskin lined with white catskin 
on her head, and she had a staff in her hand with a 
knob on it : it was ornamented with brass, and set 
with stones down from the knob : round her waist she 
had a belt of amadou on which was a great skin bag, 
in which she kept those charms which she needed for 
her art. On her feet she wore hairy calfskin shoes, 
the thongs of which were long and strong-looking and 
had great buttons of lateen on the ends. On her 
hands she had catskin gloves, which were white inside 
and furry. 

Now when she came in every one thought it right 
to offer her courteous greetings, which she received 
according as they were agreeable to her. Squire 
Thorkel took the wise-woman by the hand, and led 


her to the throne which was ready for her. Thorkel 
then asked her to run her eyes over household and 
herd and home there. She spoke little about it all. 
In tHe evening a table was brought in, and at this 
point it must be told what food was made ready for 
the prophetess. There was made for her porridge of 
goat s beestings, and for her food there were provided 
hearts of all living creatures which were obtainable ; 
she had a brass spoon, and a knife with an ivory 
handle bound with copper, and the point was broken 
off. But when the table was cleared away Squire 
Thorkel approached Thorbjorg, and asked what she 
thought of the house, or the behaviour of the men, or 
how soon those things would become known to her 
which he had asked and men wished to know. She 
told him that she would not say before the following 
morning, when she had first slept the night. 

But on the morrow late in the day the necessary 
preparations were made for her to carry out the spell. 
She asked that such women should be procured for 
her as were instructed in the knowledge which was 
needed for the spell, and was called varftlokkur . l 
But no such women were found, whereupon a search 
was made about the house to find if any one knew these 
things. Then Gudrid said, * I am not skilled in magic, 
nor a wise-woman, but Halldis my foster-mother taught 
me in Iceland that art which she called " var&lokkur ". 
* Then you are wiser than I thought/ answered 
Thorbjorg. This is a kind of lore and a proceeding , 
said Gudrid, * which I intend in no way to forward, 
since I am a Christian woman/ ( It may be , said 
Thorbjorg, that you might become useful to the 
1 i.e. a chant for attracting spirits . 
C 2 


company in this matter, yet be no worse woman than 
before ; however I will leave it to Thorkel to procure 
those things which are necessary to me. At this 
Thorkel urged Gudrid till she said she would do as he 

The women then made a circle about the platform, 
while Thorbjorg sat on the top of it ; Gudrid sang the 
song so beautifully and well that those who were by 
thought that none had heard the song sung with a 
more beautiful voice. The prophetess thanked her 
for the song, and said that she had brought many 
spirits there who thought it delightful to hear the 
chant, since it was so well done, who before wished to 
keep themselves aloof from us, and not to yield us any 
assistance : and many of those things are now clear to 
me which before were hidden from me and others. 
Now I can say that this famine will not last longer than 
this winter, and that the season will improve as the 
spring comes : the sickness which has so long oppressed 
you will grow better sooner than was hoped. But you, 
Gudrid, I will reward at once for the help which has 
been received from you, for your fate is now quite clear 
to me. You shall make the most distinguished match 
here in Greenland that is open to you, though it will 
not last you long, for your ways lie out to Iceland, 
where a great lineage and a good shall come from you, 
and over the branches of your stock bright rays shall 
shine. But now farewell and prosper, daughter mine/ 

After this people approached the wise-woman, and 
every one inquired about that which he was most 
curious to know, and she was free with information, 
and that which she told turned out true. Next she 
was sent for from other houses, and she went there. 


Then they sent for Thorbjorn, for he would not be in 
the house while such heathen rites were in progress. 
The state of the weather improved quickly when spring 
came, as Thorbjorg had said. Thorbjorn made ready 
his ship and sailed till he came to Brattahlid. Eric 
received him with open arms, and said that he had 
done right to come there. Thorbjorn and his family 
passed the winter with him, but they lodged the crew 
with the farmers. Later in the spring Eric gave 
Thorbjorn land at Stokkaness, and a fine house was 
built there, where he lived thenceforward. 


From the Saga of Eric the Red, collated with Hauk s Book. 

At that time Eric had a wife named Thjodhild, and 
by her two sons, one called Thorstein and the other 
Leif. They were both likely men. Thorstein lived 
at home with his parents, and no man in Greenland 
was considered so promising as he. Leif had sailed to 
Norway, and was with king Olaf Tryggvason. But 
when Leif sailed from Greenland in the summer they 
were driven by storms to the Hebrides. It was a 
long time before they had a fair wind thence, and they 
made a protracted stay there in the summer. Leif was 
attracted by a woman there, named Thorgunna. 1 She 
was a woman of good family, and Leif formed the 
opinion that she was gifted with supernatural know 
ledge. Now when Leif prepared to go away Thorgunna 
asked to go with him. Leif asked whether this would 
have the approval of her kin, She said that as to that 

1 See note at end of section. 


she did not care. Leif replied that he could not carry 
off a lady of such high birth in an unknown country, 
especially considering how small a force he had. It 
is not certain that the course which appeals to you is 
best/ said Thorgunna. I must risk that, said Leif. 
Then I tell you , said Thorgunna, that I shall not 
suffer alone. I am with child, and I say that the child 
is yours. I prophesy that it will be a boy when it is 
born. And though you will not pay any heed still I 
will bring up the boy, and send him to Greenland as 
soon as he can go with other men. And I prophesy 
that the possession of this son will turn out such a joy 
as befits our parting. And I intend myself to come to 
Greenland before the end. Leif gave her a gold ring, 
and a cloak of Greenland homespun, and a belt of 
(walrus) ivory. This boy came to Greenland, and was 
named Thorgils. Leif accepted paternity ; some men 
say that this Thorgils came to Iceland in the summer 
of the Froda miracle. But anyhow Thorgils came to 
Greenland, where it was thought that there was some 
thing uncanny about him up to the last. 

Leif and his men sailed away from the Hebrides, 
and reached Norway in the autumn. Leif joined the 
court of king Olaf Tryggvason. The king treated him 
with honour, evidently recognizing that he must be a 
man of good breeding. 

One day the king spoke to Leif, and said, Do you 
mean to go out to Greenland this summer ? Yes/ 
said Leif, with your consent/ I think it will be well/ 
replied the king, * you shall go with my mission, and 
preach Christianity in Greenland. Leif said he would 
consider it, but added that he thought such a mission 
would have a difficult task in Greenland. The king, 


however, said that he knew no fitter person for it than 
he, adding, you will bring it good luck. If so, the 
luck will be solely derived from you, said Leif. 1 

Leif landed in Ericsfjord, and went home afterwards 
to Brattahlid, where he was well received. He soon 
started preaching about the country Christianity and 
the Catholic Faith, and published the message of King 
Olaf Tryggvason, and told how great glory and treasure 
accompanied this creed. Eric was slow to abandon his 
religion, but Thjodhild was soon won over, and she 
had a church built, though not in the immediate 
neighbourhood of the houses, which was called 
Thjodhild s Church : there she, and her fellow-converts, 
who were many, used to offer up their prayers. 
Thjodhild would not live with Eric after her con 
version, and this he took very much to heart. 

NOTE. Thorgunna and the Froda Miracle. From the mention of 
the Froda miracle it is clear that this must be the same Thorgunna 
who is mentioned in the Eyrbyggja Saga (R. L. Stevenson s Waif 
Woman]. On the other hand, neither the chronology nor the 
description of Thorgunna can be reconciled in the two sagas. 
According to Eyrbyggja (chap. 50) Thorgunna came to Iceland 
in the summer in which Christianity was legally established (A. P. 1000), 
and the Froda miracle, which was concerned with her death, followed 
immediately afterwards; Thorgils, her son, could not therefore have 
come to Iceland at this time unless he accompanied her as an infant, 
and he is not stated to have done so. Again, though the Eyrbyggja 
Saga agrees in describing Thorgunna as a Hebridean, and states that 
she had valuable dresses and other property with her, it gives the 
following account of her personal appearance, which does not suggest 
the maiden victim of Leif s early passion : * Thorgunna was a woman 
of great size, broad and tall and very fat, swarthy and with eyes set 
close together, with a quantity of brown hair ; most men considered 
that she would have reached the sixties. The words in Eric s Saga, 

1 At this point, on the voyage to Greenland, comes the accidental 
discovery of Wineland by Leif, as given in this version. For this see 
Appendix, p. 76. 


some men say , suggest that there were various accounts of the 
matter. As the whole story of the Froda miracle is obviously 
incredible, there may well be some inaccuracy about the date of her 
arrival in Iceland, which is really all that is required to reconcile the 
two stories. 


From the Flatey Book. 

Now the next event to be recorded (after the death 
of Olaf Tryggvason, September 1000) is that Bjarni 
Herjulfson came over from Greenland to Earl Eric 
(who became the ruler of a large part of Norway after 
Olaf s death), and the earl gave him a good reception. 
Bjarni told the story of his voyage when he saw the 
(strange) lands, but people thought that he had been 
lacking in curiosity, since he had nothing to report about 
those countries, and some fault was found with him on 
this account. Bjarni was made an officer of the earl s 
court, but the following summer he went out to Green 

There was now much talk of exploration. Leif, 
Eric the Red s son from Brattahlid, went to Bjarni 
Herjulfson and bought a ship of him, and engaged a 
crew of thirty-five men. Leif asked his father Eric 
still to be leader of the expedition. 1 Eric excused 
himself, saying that he was now an old man, and less 
fitted to bear all the hardships than formerly. Leif 
said that he was still the member of the family who 
would bring the best luck ; Eric thereupon gave way 
to Leif, and as soon as they were ready for it he rode 

1 i.e. as he had formerly led the expedition to Greenland. Finnur 
J6nsson sees in the word enn ( still ) a reminiscence of Thorstein s 
voyage in Eric s Saga ; this interpretation, however, seems unneces 
sarily far-fetched. 


from home, and came to within a short distance of the 
ship. The horse which Eric was riding stumbled, and 
he fell off and hurt his foot. Then Eric said, * I am 
not fated to discover more countries than this in which 
we are now settled, and we ought not to bear one 
another company any longer/ So Eric went home to 
Brattahlid, but Leif went on board with his com 
panions, thirty-five men. There was a southerner 
(German) on the expedition called Tyrker. 

Now they prepared their ship, and when they were 
ready they put to sea, and they found first the country 
which Bjarni found last. There they sailed up to the 
land, and having cast anchor and lowered a boat went 
ashore, and saw no grass there. The background was 
all great glaciers, and all the intermediate land from 
the sea to the glaciers was like one flat rock, and the 
country seemed to them destitute of value. Then Leif 
said, We have not failed to land, like Bjarni ; now I 
will give this country a name, and call it Helluland 
(the land of flat stone). Thereupon they returned on 
board, after Xvhich they sailed to sea and discovered 
the second land. Again they sailed up to the land and 
cast anchor, then lowered the boat and went ashore. 
This land was low-lying and wooded, and wherever 
they went there were wide stretches of white sand, and 
the slope from the sea was not abrupt. Then Leif 
said, This land shall be given a name from its re 
sources, and shall be called Markland (woodland)/ 
after which they returned to the ship as quickly as 
.possible. And they sailed after that in the open sea 
with a north-east wind, and were out two days before 
they saw land, towards which they sailed, and having 
come to an island which lay to the north of the main- 


land they landed on it, the weather being fine, and 
looked round ; and they perceived that there was a 
dew on the grass, and it came about that they put 
their hands in the dew, and carried it to their mouths, 
and thought that they had never known anything so 
sweet as that was. Then they went back to the ship, 
and sailing into the sound which lay between the 
island and the cape which ran north from the mainland 
they steered a westerly course past the cape. It was 
very shallow there at low tide, so that their ship ran 
aground, and soon it was a long way from the ship to 
the sea. But they were so very eager to get to land 
that they would not wait for the tide to rise under 
their ship, but hurried ashore where a river came out 
of a lake ; but when the sea had risen under their ship 
they took the boat and rowed to the ship, and took her 
up the river and afterwards into the lake, where they 
cast anchor, and carrying their leather kitbags ashore 
they put up shelters, but later, on deciding to pass the 
winter there, they made large houses. 

There was no want of salmon, either in the river or 
the lake, and bigger salmon than they had seen before ; 
the amenities of the country were such, as it seemed to 
them, that no cattle would need fodder there in the 
winter ; there came no frost in the winter, and the 
grass did not wither there much. Day and night were 
more equally divided there than in Greenland or 
Iceland : on the shortest day the sun was up over 
the (Icelandic) marks for both nones and breakfast 
time. 1 

Now when they had finished building their houses, 

1 Lit : the sun had there eykt-place and dagmal-place on the 
shortest day . See Part II, Chapter V. 


Leif said to his men, Now I will divide our party 
into two, and have the country explored : and one 
half shall stay at home in camp while the other ex- 
plore.s the country, going no further than they can 
return by the evening, and not separating. And so 
for a time they did this, Leif sometimes going with the 
explorers and at others staying at home in camp. 
Leif was a big, strong man, the handsomest of men in 
appearance, and clever ; in fact he was in all respects 
an excellent commander. 

It happened one evening that a man of their party- 
was missing, and this was Tyrker the southerner. 
Leif was much distressed at this, for Tyrker had been 
long with his father and him, and had been very fond 
of Leif as a child : so now Leif, after finding great 
fault with his men, prepared to look for him, taking a 
dozen men with him. But when they had got a little 
way from camp Tyrker came towards them, and was 
received with joy. Leif saw at once that his foster- 
father was in good spirits. 

Tyrker had a projecting forehead and a very small 
face with roving eyes ; he was a small and insignificant 
man, but handy at every kind of odd job. 

Then Leif said to him, Why are you so late, my 
foster-father, and why did you separate from your com 
panions ? Tyrker at this spoke for a long time in 
German, rolling his eyes and grimacing, but the others 
did not distinguish what he was saying. But a little 
later he said in Norse, * I did not go much further than 
you, (but) I have found something fresh to report. I 
found vines and grapes/ * Is that true, foster-father ? 
said Leif. Certainly it is true, he replied, for I was 
born where there was no lack of vines or grapes/ 


Now they slept that night, but in the morning Leif 
said to his crew, * We will now do two things, keeping 
separate days for each ; we will gather grapes and cut 
down vines, and fell wood, to make a cargo for my 
ship, and this suggestion was adopted. The story 
goes that their pinnace was full of grapes. So a cargo 
was cut for the ship, and in spring they made ready 
and sailed away, and Leif gave the country a name 
according to its resources, and called it Wineland. 

So after this they put to sea, and the breeze was fair 
till they sighted Greenland, and the mountains under 
its glaciers. Then a man spoke up and said to Leif, 
4 Why are you steering the ship so much into the 
wind ? I am paying attention to my steering, 
replied Leif, but to something else as well : what do 
you see that is strange ? They said they could see 
nothing remarkable. I do not know , said Leif, 
* whether it is a ship or a reef that I see. Then they 
saw it, and said that it was a reef. But Leif was 
longer sighted than they, so that he saw men on the 
reef. Now, said Leif, I wish that we should beat 
up wind, so as to reach them if they need our help and 
it is necessary to assist them, and if they are not 
peaceably disposed we are masters of the situation 
and they are not. So they came up to the reef, and 
lowered their sail and cast anchor : and they launched 
a second dinghy that they had with them. Then 
Tyrker asked who was the captain (of the shipwrecked 
party). His name is Thori/ was the reply, and he 
is a Norseman, but what is your name ? Leif told 
his name. Are you a son of Eric the Red of 
Brattahlid ? said Thori. Leif assented. Now, 
said Leif, I will take you all on board my ship, and 


as much of your stuff as the ship can hold/ They 
agreed to these terms, and afterwards they sailed to 
Ericsfjord with this freight, until they came to 
Brattahlid where they unloaded the ship. After that 
Leif invited Thori and Gudrid his wife, and three 
other men to stay with him, and procured lodgings for 
the rest of the crews, both Thori s men and his own. 
Leif took fifteen men from the reef; he was subse 
quently called Leif the lucky. So Leif gained both 
wealth and honour. That winter Thori s folk were 
much attacked by sickness, and Thori and a great part 
of his crew died. 1 


Translation from the Flatey Book. 

Now there was much discussion of Leif s expedition 
to Wineland, and Thorvald, his brother, thought that 
the exploration of the country had been confined to 
too narrow an area. So Leif said to Thorvald, If 
you wish, brother, you shall go to Wineland in my 
ship : but I wish the ship to go first for the wood 
which Thori had on the reef/ And this was done. 
Thereupon Thorvald prepared for this expedition, 
taking thirty men, by the advice of Leif, his brother. 
Afterwards they made their ship ready and held out to 
sea, and there is no report of their voyage before they 
came to Wineland to Leif s camp. There they laid up 
their ship, and remained quiet that winter, catching fish 

1 The text adds : Eric the Red died also that winter/ I am 
disposed to think this statement probable, but as Eric is frequently 
mentioned later on in the alternative version, I omit this from the 
story. (See, however, Part II, Chapter II, p. 135.) 


for their food. But in the spring Thorvald told them 
to make ready their ship, and ordered the ship s 
pinnace with some of the crew to go to the west of 
the country and explore there during the summer. It 
seemed to them a fine wooded country, the trees 
coming close down to the sea, and there were white 
sands. There were many islands, and many shoals. 
They found no traces either of men or beasts, except 
that on an island to the west they found a wooden 
barn. 1 Finding no further human handiwork they 
returned, and came to Leif s camp in the autumn. 
But the next summer Thorvald sailed to the east with 
his trading ship, and along the more northerly part of 
the country : then a sharp storm arose off a cape, 
so that they ran ashore, breaking the keel under their 
ship ; so they made a long stay there to repair their 
vessel. Then Thorvald said to his companions, Now 
I wish that we should raise up the keel here on 
the cape, and call it Keelness, and so they did. After 
wards they sailed away thence and eastward along the 
coast and into the nearest fjord mouths, and to a 
headland which ran out there : it was all covered with 
wood. Then they moored their ship, and put out 
the gangway to land, and there Thorvald went ashore 
with all his crew. Then he remarked, * This is a 
beautiful spot, where I should like to make my home. 
After this they returned to the ship, and saw on the 
sands inside the headland three lumps, and on ap 
proaching they saw three canoes of skin, with three 
men beneath each. Thereupon they divided their 
party, and laid hands on all of them, except one who 
escaped with his canoe. They killed the eight, and 

1 See note at end of section. 


afterwards went back to the headland, when they saw 
inside in the fjord some mounds, which they took to be 
dwelling-places. After this there came over them so 
great "a heaviness that they could not keep awake, and 
they all fell asleep. Then came a cry above them, so 
that they all woke up, and the cry was, Awake, 
Thorvald, and all your company, if you value your life: 
and return to your ship with all your men, and leave 
the land with all speed. At that there came from 
within the fjord countless skin canoes, which made 
towards them. So Thorvald said, * We must set the 
war-shields over the side, and defend ourselves as well 
as we can, while assuming the offensive but little. So 
they did, but the savages, 1 after shooting at them for a 
while, afterwards fled away, each as quickly as he 
could. Then Thorvald asked his men if they were 
wounded at all ; they said there were no casualties. 
* I have got a wound under the arm, said he ; an arrow 
flew between the gunwale and the shield under my arm 
and here it is, and it will be my death. Now my advice 
is that you prepare to go away as quickly as possible, 
after carrying me to that headland which I thought the 
best place to dwell in : maybe it was the truth that 
came into my mouth that I should stay there awhile. 
Bury me there with a cross at my head and at my feet, 
and call it Crossness hereafter for ever. Greenland 
was then converted, though Eric the Red died before 

Now Thorvald died, but they carried out all his 
instructions, after which they went and met their 
companions, and told each other such tidings as they 
knew, and they stayed there that winter, gathering 

1 Sknelmgar. 


grapes and vines for their ship. Then in the spring 
they prepared to go back to Greenland, and arrived with 
their ship in Ericsfjord, with great news to tell Leif. 

NOTE. * A wooden barn . (Kornhjdlm af /re). This is the only 
allusion, direct or indirect, which is made to corn in the course of the 
Flatey Book version. It is frequently referred to as one of the absur 
dities affecting the credit of this part of the story. But it does not 
seem to me to have any necessary or probable connexion with the 
wild corn of the Saga of Eric. The selfsown wheat is never 
mentioned by the historian of the Flatey Book ; unlike the wild 
grapes, he does not seem to have heard of this feature. It is therefore 
impossible to suppose that the barn is an imaginary feature introduced 
to colour the reports of wild corn. It is recorded merely as the only 
trace of human occupation met with during the exploration conducted 
in the ship s pinnace. And its very inappropriateness to the unculti 
vated crops of which we are told in the rival version seems to me 
a strong proof of its authenticity. Like the whole of this part of the 
story, it is too purposeless to be invented. We need not on this 
account imagine that it actually was a barn. The storage of Indian 
corn in New England, according to the earliest observers, was, for 
the most part at any rate, in holes in the ground, and an island remote 
from human habitation seems a most unlikely situation. 

On the other hand, De Laet s Nieuwe Werelt reports Hudson 
as having seen a house well constructed of oak bark, and circular 
in shape, so that it had the appearance of being well built, with 
an arched roof. It contained a great quantity of maize or Indian 
corn, and beans of the last year s growth, and there lay near the 
house, for the purpose of drying, enough to load three ships/ 
{Hudson the Navigator, Hakluyt Society, p. 161). 

But there may easily be a different interpretation. Hjalm in 
its primary meaning is a conical helm, then a stack or cock o( similar 
shape, and so finally a building used to cover such a stack of corn. 
Two possible explanations occur to me. One is that what was seen 
and originally reported was a structure of poles and bark of conical 
shape, and that the explorers, being unfamiliar at this time with 
savage architecture, assumed that it was intended to cover a rick of 
corn, which in shape it resembled. Alternatively it may be that 
originally the reference was solely to its shape, and not to its purpose, 
and that the first report mentioned a conical stack of poles. In 
either case what was actually seen may well have been a deserted 
wigwam of poles and bark such as the Micmacs and other Indians 
build at the present day. In the earliest records similar dwellings 
are described, while in some cases those observed by Champlain 
appear to have been roughly dome-shaped at the top ; this, as a glance 
at those illustrated in the sketch-maps of that writer will show, would 


give them even more exactly the form of a cock of hay or corn. It 
seems to me that the knowledge of the wild corn mentioned in Eric s 
Saga and by Adam of Bremen has alone diverted the minds of 
previous commentators from this, the most probable explanation. 


Translation from the Flatey Book. 

It had happened in Greenland, meanwhile, that 
Thorstein of Ericsfjord had taken in marriage 
Thorbjorn s daughter Gudrid, who, as has already been 
mentioned, had been the wife of Thori Eastman. 
Now Thorstein Ericson wished to go to Wineland for 
the body of Thorvald his brother, so he made ready 
the same ship, choosing his crew for their strength and 
size ; and with twenty-five men and Gudrid his wife 
they put to sea when they were ready, and lost sight of 
land. All the summer they tossed about in the open, 
and did not know where they went, and in the first 
week of winter they made the land at Lysefjord 
in Greenland in the Western Settlement. 

Thorstein looked for lodgings for the party, and got 
them for all his crew, but he and his wife were house 
less. So they remained behind by the ship some two 
nights. Christianity was still new then in Greenland. 
One day some men came to their tent early in the 
morning. So these men who were there asked what 
persons were in the tent. Thorstein replied : Two 
persons/ he said, but who are you who ask ? My 
name is Thorstein, ( said one of the men), and 
I am called Thorstein the Black, but my errand 
here is to invite both of you to lodge with me. 

2376 D 


Thorstein said that he wished to consult his wife, but 
she told him to decide, whereupon he accepted. 
Then/ (said the man), * I will come for you to-morrow 
with a carthorse, for I have plenty of room to take you 
in ; but it is very dull to stay with me, for there 
are just the two of us, my wife and I, and I am 
of a very obstinate disposition. I hold a different 
faith from you, though I consider that which you hold 
is superior. So then he came for them in the morning 
with a horse, and they went to lodge with Thorstein 
the Black, and he treated them well. Gudrid was 
a woman of striking appearance, and a clever woman 
who could get on well with strangers. Early in 
the winter a plague attacked Thorstein Ericson s 
party, and many of his companions died there. 
Thorstein ordered coffins to be made for the bodies 
of those who died, and directed that they should be 
taken to the ship and looked after, for , he said, 
* I wish to remove all the bodies to Ericsfjord in the 
summer. Now after a short interval plague attacked 
Thorstein s house, and his wife, whose name was 
Grimhild, was the first to fall ill. She was very 
energetic, and as strong as a man, yet the plague got 
the better of her, and soon afterwards Thorstein 
Ericson caught the plague, and they were both laid up 
at the same time : and Grimhild, wife of Thorstein the 
Black, died. Now when she was dead Thorstein 
(the Black) went out of the room for a plank to lay the 
body on. Then Gudrid spoke : Do not stay away 
long, my Thorstein/ she said. He said it should be as 
she wished. Then said Thorstein Ericson, * Wonderful 
things are happening to our hostess now, for she 
is raising herself up with her elbows, and moving 


her feet from the bench, and groping for her shoes : 
and with that Thorstein the owner of the place came in, 
whereupon Grimhild laid herself down, and every 
beam. in the room creaked. Now Thorstein made 
a coffin for Grimhild s body, and took it away and made 
preparations. He was a big man and strong, but 
he needed all this before he got her out of the house. 
Now the illness of Thorstein Ericson grew worse, and 
he died. Gudrid his wife hardly realized it. They 
were all in the room at the time. Gudrid had seated 
herself on a chair before the bench on which Thorstein 
her husband had been laid. Then Thorstein the 
owner of the house took Gudrid from the chair in his 
arms, and sat on another bench with her opposite 
Thorstein s corpse, and spoke to her about it in many 
ways, and comforted her, promising her that he would 
go with her to Ericsfjord with the bodies of Thorstein 
her husband and his companions, and said, * I will also 
engage more servants here to console and entertain 
you. She thanked him. Then Thorstein Ericson sat 
up and cried, Where is Gudrid ? Three times 
he said this, but she remained silent. Then she said 
to Thorstein of the house, Shall I answer his speech 
or not ? He told her not to answer. Then Thorstein 
of the house crossed the floor, and sat on the chair 
with Gudrid on his knees, and then he spoke, saying, 
What do you want, namesake ? A moment passed, 
and the other answered : * I am anxious to tell Gudrid 
her fortune, so that she can the better bear my death, 
for I have come to a good resting-place. Now there 
is this to tell you, Gudrid, that you will be married to 
a man of Iceland, and your life together will be long, 
and a great line of men will spring from you, vigorous, 

D 2 


bright and good, sweet and of a good savour. You 
will travel from Greenland to Norway, and thence to 
Iceland, where you will build a home. There the two 
of you will live long, and you will survive him. You 
will go abroad and make a pilgrimage to Rome (lit. : go 
south), and come back home to Iceland, and then 
a church will be built there where you will remain and 
take the vows of a nun, and there you will die. Upon 
this Thorstein sank back, and his body was prepared 
and carried to the ship. Thorstein of the house 
thoroughly performed all that he had promised Gudrid. 
He sold his land and livestock in the spring, and 
accompanied Gudrid to the ship with all that was his ; 
he made the ship ready and engaged a crew, and then 
sailed away to Ericsfjord. The bodies were now 
buried by the church. Gudrid went to Leif at 
Brattahlid, while Thorstein the Black built a house on 
Ericsfjord, where he stayed during his life, being 
considered the most chivalrous of men. 


Translation from the text of the saga of Eric the Red collated with 
that of Hauk s Book. Passages in italics from Hauk s Book only. 

There was a man named Thord, who lived at Hbfda 
in Hbfdastrand. He married Fridgerda, daughter of 
Thori Hyma and of Fridgerda daughter of Kjarval 
king of the Irish. Thord zuas a son of Bjb rn 
Byrdusmb r, son of Thorvald Hrygg, son of Asleik, son 
of Bjb rn Ironside, son of Ragnar Shaggy -Breeches. 
77iey had a son called Snorri : he married Thorhild 


Rype, a daughter of Thord Gelli : their son was Thord 
Horsehead. Thord Horsehead had a son called Thorfin 
Karlsefni, who lived in the north at Reynisness in 
Skagafjord, as it now is called. Besides being of 
a good stock Karlsefni was a wealthy man. His 
mother s name was Thorunn. He was in the cruising 
trade, and had a good reputation as a sailor. 

One summer Karlsefni made ready his ship for 
a voyage to Greenland. Snorri Thorbrandson from 
Alptafjord joined him, 1 and they had forty men with 
them. A man named Bjarni Grimolfson from 
Breidafjord, and another called Thorhall Gamlison 2 
from Eastfjord both made ready their ship the same 
summer as Karlsefni to go to Greenland ; they had 
forty men on board. They put to sea with these two 
ships, when they were ready. We are not told how 
long they were at sea ; suffice it to say that both these 
ships arrived at Ericsfjord in the autumn. Eric and 
other settlers rode to the ships, where they began 
to trade freely : the skippers told Gudrid 3 to help 
herself from their wares, but Eric was not behindhand 
in generosity, for he invited the crews of both ships to 
his home at Brattahlid for the winter. The traders 
accepted this offer and went with Eric. Thereupon 
their stuff was removed to the house at Brattahlid, 
where there was no lack of good large out-buildings in 
which to store their goods, and the merchants had 
a good time with Eric during the winter. 

But as it drew towards Christmas Eric began to be 

1 See note at end of this section. 

2 This is corroborated by Gretti s Saga, Chaps. 14 and 30, where 
one Thorhall Gamlison the Winelander is mentioned. 

3 Hauk s Book: Eric . 


less cheerful than usual. One day Karlsefni came to 
speak to Eric, and said : * Is anything the matter, 
Eric ? It seems to me that you are rather more 
silent than you used to be ; you are treating us with the 
greatest generosity, and we owe it to you to repay you 
so far as lies in our power, so tell us what is troubling 
you. You have been good and courteous guests, 
replied Eric, my mind is not troubled by any lack of 
response on your part, it is rather that I am afraid it 
will be said when you go elsewhere that you never passed 
a worse Christmas than when you stayed with Eric 
the Red at Brattahlid in Greenland! * That shall not 
be so, replied Karlsefni, we have on our ships malt 
and meal and corn, and you are welcome to take 
of it what you will, and make as fine a feast as 
your ideas of hospitality suggest. Eric accepted this 
offer, and a Christmas feast was prepared, which was so 
splendid that people thought they had hardly ever seen 
so magnificent a feast in a poor country. 

And after Christmas Karlsefni asked Eric for 
Gudrid s hand, since it appeared to him to be a matter 
under Eric s control, and moreover he thought her 
a beautiful and. accomplished woman. Eric answered, 
saying that he would certainly entertain his suit, 
but that she was a good match ; that it was likely that 
she would be fulfilling her destiny if she was married 
to him, and that he had heard good of Karlsefni. So 
then the proposal was conveyed to her, and she left it 
to Eric to decide for her. And now it was not 
long before this proposal was accepted, and the fes 
tivities began again, and their wedding was celebrated. 

1 Following the text of Hauk s Book, as the clearer sense. 


There was a very merry time at Brattahlid in the winter 
with much playing at draughts and story-telling, and 
a great deal to make their stay pleasant. 

[At this time there was much discussion at Brattahlid 
during the winter 1 about a search for Wineland the 
Good, and it was said that it would be a profitable 
country to visit ; Karlsefni and Snorri resolved to 
search for Wineland, and the project was much talked 
about, so it came about that Karlsefni and Snorri 
made ready their ship to go and look for the country 
in the summer. 2 The man named Bjarni, and Thorhall, 
who have already been mentioned, joined the expedition 
with their ship, and the crew which had accompanied 
them. There was a man named Thorvald 3 (evidently 
Thorvard), who was connected by marriage with Eric 
the Red. He also went with them, and Thorhall who 
was called the Hunter, he had been long engaged with 
Eric as hunter in the summer, 4 and had many things 
in his charge. Thorhall was big and strong and dark, 
and like a giant : he was rather old, of a temper hard 
to manage, taciturn and of few words as a rule, cunning 
but abusive, and he was always urging Eric to the 
worse course. He had had little dealings with the 
faith since it came to Greenland. Thorhall was rather 
unpopular, yet for a long time Eric had been in the 
habit of consulting him. He was on the ship with 
Thorvald s men, 5 for he had a wide experience of wild 

1 The copyist of Eric s Saga misplaces this sentence, putting it 
before with much playing , Hauk s is th preferable reading. 

2 Hauk s Book : spring . 

3 Hauk s Book corrects this to c Thorvard, who married Freydis, an 
illegitimate daughter of Eric the Red , but adds and Thorvald Ericson . 
Cf. Part II, Chapter II, p. 126. 

4 Plural, therefore he had been with Eric many years. 

5 Hauk s Book : with Thorvard and Thorvald . 


countries. They had the ship which Thorbjbrn had 
brought out there, and they joined themselves to 
Karlsefni s party for the expedition, and the majority 
of the men were Greenlanders. The total force on 
board their ships was 160 men. 1 After this they sailed 
away to the Western Settlement and the Bear Isles. 
They sailed away from the Bear Isles with a northerly 
wind. They were at sea two days. Then they found 
land, and rowing ashore in boats they examined the 
country, and found there a quantity of flat stones, 
which were so large that two men could easily have 
lain sole to sole on them : there were many arctic 
foxes there. They gave the place a name, calling it 
Helluland. Then they sailed for two days with north 
wind, and changed their course from south to south-east, 
and then there was a land before them on which was 
much wood and many beasts. An island lay there off 
shore to the south-east, on which they found a bear, 
and they called it Bjarn^y (Bear Island), but the land 
where the wood was they called Markland (woodland). 
[Then when two days were passed they sighted land, 
up to which they sailed. There was a cape where they 
arrived. 2 They beat along the coast, and left the land 
to starboard : it was a desolate place, and there were 
long beaches and sands there. They rowed ashore, 
and found there on the cape the keel of a ship, so they 
called the place Keelness : they gave the beaches also 
a name, calling them Furdustrands (the Wonder 
Beaches) because the sail past them was long. Next 

1 Eric s Saga says, forty men of the second hundred . Hauk s 
Book has, forty men and a hundred . As the Icelandic hundred was 
1 20, this means 160 in each case. 

2 From [ Hauk s Book has : Thence they coasted south for 
a long while, and came to a cape , &c. 


the country became indented with bays, into one of 
which they steered the ships. 

Now when Leif was with king Olaf Tryggvason and 
he commissioned him to preach Christianity in Green 
land, the king gave him two Scots, a man called Hake 
and a woman Hekja. The king told Leif to make use 
of these people if he had need of speed, for they were 
swifter than deer : these people Leif and Eric provided 
to accompany Karlsefni. Now when they had coasted 
past Furdustrands they set the Scots ashore, telling 
them to run southward along the land to explore the 
resources of the country and come back before three 
days were past. They were dressed in what they 
called a kjafal ^ which was made with a hood above, 
and open at the sides without sleeves : it was fastened 
between the legs, where a button and a loop held it 
together : otherwise they were naked. They cast 
anchor and lay there in the meanwhile. And when 
three days were past they came running down from the 
land, and one of them had in his hand a grape-duster 
while the other had a wild (lit : self-sown 2 ) ear of wheat. 
They told Karlsefni that they thought that they had 
found that the resources of the country were good. 
They received them into their ship, and went their 
ways, till the country was indented by a fjord. They 
took the ships into the fjord. There was an island 
outside, about which there were strong currents, so 
they called it Straumsey (Tide or Current Island). 
There were so many birds 3 on the island that a man s 

1 Hauk s Book ; Eric s Saga has bjafal . The word is clearly 
Gaelic. Nansen suggests an Irish word, cabhail , the body of a shirt. 
Or possibly gioball = garment. 

2 Hauk s Book has newly-sown . 

3 Hauk s Book: eiders 


feet could hardly come down between the eggs. They 
held along the fjord, and called the place Straumsfjord, 
and there they carried up their goods from the ships 
and prepared to stay : they had with them all sorts of 
cattle, and they explored the resources of the country 
there. There were mountains there, and the view was 
beautiful. They did nothing but explore the country. 
There was plenty of grass there. They were there for 
the winter, and the winter was severe, but they had 
done nothing to provide for it, and victuals grew scarce, 
and hunting and fishing deteriorated. Then they went 
out to the island, in the hope that this place might 
yield something in the way of fishing or. jetsam. But 
there was little food to be obtained on it, though their 
cattle throve there well. After this they cried to God 
to send them something to eat, and their prayer was 
not answered as soon as they desired. Thorhall 
disappeared and men went in search of him : that lasted 
three successive days. On the fourth day Karlsefni 
and Bjarni found Thorhall on a crag ; he was gazing 
into the air with staring eyes, open mouth, and dilated 
nostrils, and scratching and pinching himself and 
reciting something. They asked him why he had 
come there. He said it was no business of theirs, told 
them not to be surprised at it, and said that he had 
lived long enough to make it unnecessary for them to 
trouble about him. They told him to come home with 
them, and he did so. Soon afterwards there came a 
whale, and they went to it and cut it up, but no one 
knew what sort of whale it was. Karlsefni had a great 
knowledge of whales, but still he did not recognize 
this one. The cooks boiled this whale, and they ate 
it, but were all ill from it : then Thorhall came up and 


said : Was not the Red-Beard (Thor) more useful 
than your Christ ? This is my reward for chanting of 
Thor my patron ; seldom has he failed me. But 
when they heard this none of them would avail them 
selves of the food, and they threw it down off the rocks 
and committed their cause to God s mercy : the state of 
the weather then improved and permitted them to row 
out, and from that time there was no lack of provision 
during the spring. They went into Straumsfjord, and 
got supplies from both places, hunting on the mainland, 
and eggs and fishing from the sea. 

Now they consulted about their expedition, and were 
divided. Thorhall the Hunter wished to go north by 
Furdustrands and past Keelness, and so look for 
Wineland, but Karlsefni wished to coast south [and 
off the east coast, considering that the region which 
lay more to the south was the larger, and it seemed to 
him the best plan to explore both ways. 1 So then 
Thorhall made ready out by the islands, and there 
were no more than nine men for his venture, the rest 
of the party going with Karlsefni. And one clay as 
Thorhall was carrying water to his ship he drank it, 
and recited this verse : 

They flattered my confiding ear 

With tales of drink abounding here : 

My curse itpon the thirsty land ! 

A warrior, trained to bear a brand, 

A pail instead I have to bring, 

A nd bovv my back beside the spring : 

For neer a single draught of wine 

Has passed these parching lips of mine? 

1 From [ omitted in Hauk s Book. 

2 These verses follow the H auk s Book text, which is here less 
corrupt than the other. 


After this they set out, and Karlsefni accompanied 
them by the islands. 

Before they hoisted their sail Thorhall recited a 
verse : 

Now let the vessel plough the main 
To Greenland and our friends again : 
Away, and leave the strenuous host 
Who praise this God-forsaken coast 
70 linger in a desert land, 
And boil their whales in Furdustrand. 1 

Afterwards they parted, and they sailed north past 
Furdustrands and Keelness, and wished to bear west 
ward ; but they were met by a storm and cast ashore 
in Ireland, where they were much ill-treated and en 
slaved. There Thorhall died, according to the reports 
of traders. 

Karlsefni coasted south with Snorri and Bjarni and 
the rest of their party. They sailed a long time, till 
they came to a river which flowed down from the land 
and through a lake into the sea : there were great shoals 
of gravel there in front of the estuary and they could 
not enter the river except at high tide. Karlsefni 
and his party sailed into the estuary, and called the 
place Hop. 

They found there wild (lit : self-sown) fields of wheat 
wherever the ground was low, but vines wherever they 
explored the hills. Every brook was full of fish. 
They made pits where the land met high-water mark, 
and when the tide ebbed there were halibut in the pits. 
There was a great quantity of animals of all sorts in 

1 See note 2 on previous page. 


the woods. They were there a fortnight, enjoying 
themselves, without noticing anything further : they 
had their cattle with them. 

And one morning early, as they looked about them, 
they saw nine skin canoes, on which staves were waved 
with a noise just like threshing, and they were waved 
with the sun. Then Karlsefni said, * What is the 
meaning of this ? Snorri answered him, Perhaps 
this is a sign of peace, so let us take a white shield 
and lift it in answer, and they did so. Then these 
men rowed to meet them, and, astonished at what they 
saw, they landed. They were swarthy x men and ugly, 
with unkempt hair on their heads. They had large 
eyes and broad cheeks. They stayed there some 
time, showing surprise. Then they rowed away south 
past the cape. 

Karlsefni and his men had made their camp above 
the lake, and some of the huts were near the mainland 
while others were near the lake. So they remained 
there that winter ; no snow fell, and their cattle re 
mained in the open, finding their own pasture. But 
at the beginning of spring they saw one morning early 
a fleet of skin canoes rowing from the south past the 
cape, so many that the sea was black with them, 2 and 
on each boat there were staves waved. Karlsefni and 
his men raised their shields, and they began to trade : 
the (strange) people wanted particularly to buy red 
cloth, in exchange for which they offered skins and grey 
furs. They wished also to buy swords and spears, but 
Karlsefni and Snorri forbade this. The savages got 
for a dark skin a spans length of red cloth, which they 

1 So Hauk s Book ; the companion text has small . 

2 Lit. as many as if it had been sowed with coal. 


bound round their heads. 1 Thus things continued for 
awhile, but when the cloth began to give out they cut 
it into pieces so small that they were not more than 
a finger s breadth. The savages gave as much for it 
as before, or more. 

It happened that a bull belonging to Karlsefni s 
party ran out of the wood, and bellowed loudly : this 
terrified the savages, and they ran out to their canoes, 
and rowed south along the coast, and there was nothing- 
more seen of them for three consecutive weeks. But 
when that time had elapsed they saw a great number 
of the boats of the savages coming from the south like 
a rushing torrent, and this time all the staves were 
waved widdershins, and all the savages yelled loudly. 
Upon this Karlsefni s men took a red shield and raised 
it in answer. The savages ran from their boats and 
thereupon they met and fought ; there was a heavy 
rain of missiles ; the savages had war-slings too. Karl- 
sefni and Snorri observed that the savages raised up on 
a pole a very large globe, closely resembling a sheep s 
paunch and dark in colour, and it flew from the pole 
up on land over the party, and made a terrible noise 
where it came down. Upon this a great fear came on 
Karlsefni and his party, so that they wished for nothing 
but to get away up stream, for they thought that the 
savages were setting upon them from all sides, nor did 
they halt till they came to some rocks where they made 
a determined resistance. 

Freydis came out, and seeing Karlsefni s men re 
treating she cried out, Why are such fine fellows as 
you running away from these unworthy men, whom 
I thought you could have butchered like cattle ? Now 
1 Following Hank s Book, as the clearer text. 


if I had a weapon it seems to me that I should fight 
better than any of you. They paid no attention to 
what she said. Freydis wished to follow them, but 
was rather slow because she was not well ; yet she 
went after them into the wood, pursued by the savages. 
She found before her a dead man, Thorbrand Snorre- 
son, with a flat stone standing in his head : his sword 
lay beside him. This she took up, and prepared to 
defend herself with it. Then the savages set upon 
her, but she drew out her breast from beneath her 
clothes and beat the sword upon it : with that the 
savages were afraid, and running back to their ships 
they withdrew. Karlsefni s men came up to her and 
praised her courage. Two men of Karlsefni s force 
fell, but four 1 of the savages, although the former were 
outnumbered. So then they went back to their huts, 
and bound their wounds, and considered what that force 
could have been which set upon them from the land 
side ; it now appeared to them that the attacking 
party consisted solely of those who came from the ships, 
and that the others must have been a delusion. 

Moreover the savages found a dead man with an 
axe lying beside him. One of them took up the axe and 
cut at a tree, and then each of the others did so, and they 
thought it a treasure and that it cut well. Afterwards 
one of them cut at a stone, and the axe broke, where 
upon he thought that it was useless, since it did not 
stand against the stone, and threw it down. 

It now appeared to Karlsefni s party that though 

this country had good resources yet they would live 

in a perpetual state of warfare and alarm on account of 

the aborigines. So they prepared to depart, intending 

1 Hauk s Book has * several . 


to return to their own country. They coasted north 
ward, and found five savages in skins sleeping by 
the sea ; these had with them receptacles in which was 
beast s marrow mixed with blood. They concluded 
that these men must have been sent from the country l : 
they killed them. Later on they discovered a pro 
montory and a quantity of beasts : the promontory 
had the appearance of a cake of dung, because the 
beasts lay there in the winter. 2 Now they came to 
Straumsfjord, where there was plenty of every kind. 

Some men say that Bjarni and Freydis 3 stayed 
there with a hundred men and went no further, while 
Karlsefni and Snorri went south with forty men, 
staying no longer at Hop than a scant two months, 
and returning the same summer. 4 

They considered that those mountains which were at Hop 
and those which they now found were all one, and ivere 
therefore close opposite one another, and that the distance 
from Straumsfjord was the same in both directions! 
They were at Straumsfjord the third winter. 

At this time the men were much divided into parties, 
which happened because of the women, the unmarried men 
claiming the wives of those who were married,* which 
gave rise to the greatest disorder. There Karlsefni s 
son, Snorri, was born the first autumn, and he ivas three 
winters old when they left. Q 

1 i. e. sent from Hop, as hostile emissaries or spies. 

2 Hauk sBook: at night*. 3 Hauk sBook: Gudrid . 

4 Here follows this narrative s version of the death of Thorvald. 
(See Appendix, p. 77.) 

6 Following Hauk s text. Eric s Saga reads, They intended to 
explore all those mountains which were at H6p, and those which they 
found. It continues they went back, and the third winter , &c. 

6 Following Hauk s text. 


On sailing from Wineland they got a south wind, 
and came to Markland, where they found five savages, 
one of whom was bearded. There were two women 
and two children : Karlsefrii s men caught the boys, 
but the others escaped, disappearing into the ground. 
But they kept the two boys with them, and taught 
them speech, and they were christened. They called 
their mother Vaetilldi and their father Uvaegi. They 
said that the savages country was governed by kings, 
one of whom was called Avalldamon and the other 
Valldidida. They said that there were no houses there : 
people lived in dens or caves. They reported that 
another country lay on the other side, opposite to their 
own, where people lived who wore white clothes, and 
uttered loud cries, and carried poles, and went with 
flags. It is thought that this was Hvitramannaland, or 
Ireland the Great. So then they came to Greenland, 
and stayed with Eric the Red for the winter. 

Then Bjarni Grimolfson was carried into the sea of 
Greenland, 1 and came into a sea infested by the teredo, 
and the first thing they noticed was that the ship beneath 
them was worm-eaten. So they discussed what plan 
should be adopted. They had a boat which was coated 
with seal-tar. It is said that the teredo does not eat 
wood which is coated with seal-tar. The majority 
declared in favour of the proposal to man the boat with 
such men as she would accommodate. But when this 
was tested the boat would not accommodate more than 
half the crew. Bjarni then said that the manning of 
the boat should be by lot, and not by rank. But every 
man who was there wished to go in the boat, and she 

1 Hauk s Book, probably more correctly Ireland . 

2376 E 


could not take them all. For this reason T they agreed 
to the course of drawing lots for the manning of the 
boat from the ship. So the result of the drawing was 
that Bjarni drew a seat in the boat, and about half the 
crew with him. So those who had been chosen by 
the lots w^nt from the ship into the boat. When they 
had got into the boat, a young Icelander, who had 
been one of Bjarni s companions, said, Do you mean, 
Bjarni, to desert me here ? Bjarni replied, * So it has 
turned out. This is not what you promised me , 
said he, when I left my father s house in Iceland to 
go with you. * But still , said Bjarni, I do not see 
any other course in this predicament : but answer me, 
what course do you advise? The course I see , 
said he, is that we change places, and you come here 
while I go there. Bjarni answered, * Be it so. For I see 
that you cling greedily to life, and think it a hard thing 
to die. Thereupon they changed places. This man 
went down into the boat, while Bjarni got on board 
the ship, and men say that Bjarni was lost there in the 
teredo sea, with those men who were on board with 
him. But the boat and those on board of her went 
their ways, till they came to land, at Dublin in Ireland, 
where they afterwards told this story. 

NOTE. Snorri Thorbrandson comes to Greenland. The Eyrbyggja 
Saga (chap. 48) mentions this emigration of Snorri Thorbrandson 
as an event taking place after the reconciliation of the men of Eyr 
and Alptafjord . The ingenuity of commentators in constructing 
a difficulty is well exemplified in connexion with this passage. Chapter 
49 begins with the words it was next after this that Gizur the White 
and Hjalti his son-in-law came out with the mission of Christianity, 
and all men in Iceland were baptized, and Christianity was legally 
established at the general sessions . The events thus described 

1 Hauk s Book gives a different reason. All thought this such 
a manly offer that no one would speak against it. 


happened in the year 1000. If therefore the emigration of Snorri 
Thorbrandson is taken as the event after which Christianity was 
introduced, a discrepancy in the chronology is apparent. A reference 
to the context shows, however, that chapter 48 concludes the section 
of the saga which deals with the dispute between the men of Eyr 
and Alptafjord. It is in accordance with the usual practice in such 
cases that the subsequent fate of the principal characters should be 
briefly indicated. Thus in the Flatey Book the Wineland episode 
concludes with the subsequent careers of Karlsefni and Gudrid, and 
the mention of their descendants. The book then reverts to the 
consideration of other matters following upon the death of Olaf 
Tryggvason. It is therefore quite unnecessary to regard Snorri s 
journey to Greenland and his Wineland adventures as taking place 
immediately after the settlement of the feud in which his family were 
concerned, while the introduction of Christianity is the next main 
episode after the Eyr-Alptafjord quarrel, and does not necessarily 
follow in date the minor facts recorded in winding up this matter. 
It may further be. pointed out that the sequence of the two chapters 
is not the same in all MSS. of the Eyrbyggja Saga. 

Apart from this question of chronological discrepancy this passage 
strongly corroborates the Wineland story, for it goes on to state how 
Snorri went to Wineland the Good with Karlsefni ; when they 
fought with the savages there Thorbrand Snorrison, the bravest 
of men, fell there . Some texts read Snorri Thorbrandson for 
Thorbrand Snorrison , but, apart from the occurrence of the correct 
name in what is probably the most reliable manuscript, the sense 
seems to demand a different name from that of the original subject 
of the sentence, while to substitute Snorri, incorrectly, for a similar 
name not previously mentioned is a natural and characteristic error 
for a copyist to commit. 


Translation from the Flatey Book. 

Now talk began again about the journey to Wine- 
land, for the voyage thither seemed both lucrative and 
honourable. The same summer that Karlsefni returned 
from Wineland there came a ship from Norway to 
Greenland, commanded by two brothers, Helgi and 
Finnbogi, and they stayed that winter in Greenland. 
These brothers were of an Icelandic stock from 
Eastfjord. Now the story goes that Freydis, Eric s 

E 2 

68 F R E Y D I S 

daughter, made a journey from her home at Garda, 
and went to see the brothers, Helgi and Finnbogi, and 
invited them to go to Wineland with their ship, and 
divide with her all the profit they might make out of 
it. They consented. From them she went and inter 
viewed her brother Leif, whom she asked to give her 
the houses which he had had built in Wineland ; but he 
gave her the same answer as before, that he would 
lend the houses but not give them. l So it was 
arranged between the brothers 2 and Freydis that each 
should take thirty fighting men on board, besides women. 
But Freydis broke these terms at once, and took five 
extra men, whom she hid, so that the brothers knew 
nothing of it before they reached Wineland. 

Now they put out to sea, having arranged to sail 
together as far as practicable, and as it turned out 
there was not much difference between them, but the 
brothers were slightly the first to arrive, and took their 
belongings up to Leifs camp. But when Freydis 
arrived her ship was unloaded, and her things taken up 
to the camp. Then Freydis said, Why have you 
brought your property in here ? * Because we 
imagined , said they, that the whole arrangement 
between us was going to be kept. Leif lenfme the 
houses/ said she, but not you/ Then Helgi said, 
We brothers are no match for you in wickedness : so 
they carried out their goods, and made themselves 
a camp, which they placed further from the sea by the 
shore of a lake, and they thoroughly settled in, while 
Freydis had wood cut for her ship. 

Now when winter set in the brothers suggested that 

1 See Appendix, p. 83. 

2 The text has * Karlsefni , an obvious slip. 

F R E Y D I S 69 

games should be started to pass the time. This went 
on for a while, until a quarrel arose which led to dis 
cord between them, and the games stopped, and no 
one went from the one camp to the other. This state 
of things continued for a long time during the winter. 
Then one morning early Freydis got out of bed and 
dressed, but put nothing on her feet : and it happened 
that there was a heavy dew. She took her husband s 
cloak, and went out to the brothers house, to the door : 
now a man had been out shortly before, and had left 
the door ajar. She opened the door, and stood for 
a while in the doorway without saying anything, till 
Finnbogi, who was lying furthest from the door and 
who was awake, said, What do you want here, 
Freydis ? She replied, I want you to get up and 
come out with me, and I want to talk to you. He 
did as she asked, and they went to a log which was 
lying under the wall of the house, and sat down on it. 
How are you enjoying yourself? she said. * I like 
the country, he replied, * but I do not like the quarrel 
which has sprung up between us, for I do not see any 
reason for it. There you speak truly, said she, 
and I am of the same opinion, but my reason for 
coming here to you is that I want to buy the ship which 
belongs to you brothers, for you have a larger ship 
than I, and I wish to go away from this place. I will 
agree to that , said he, if it will please you. With 
that they separated ; she went home, and Finnbogi 
went to bed. She climbed into bed with her cold feet, 
and waked Thorvard with them, so that he asked her 
why she was so cold and wet. She answered with great 
vehemence, I have been to the brothers to bid for 
their ship, since I wanted to buy a larger ship ; but 

70 F R E V D I S 

they took it so ill that they beat me and grossly 
maltreated me : and you, miserable man, will neither 
avenge my shame nor your own ; but I can realize now 
that I am not in Greenland, and I will separate from 
you if you will not avenge this. And when he could 
bear her reproaches no longer he ordered his men to 
get up at once and take their weapons, and having done 
so they went to the brothers house, and they went in 
to them as they slept, and took them and bound them, 
and brought each man out as he was bound, and Freydis 
had each one killed as he came out. Now all the men 
were killed, but the women were left, and no one 
would kill them. Then said Freydis, Hand me an 
axe. So they did, and she killed the five women who 
were there, and left them dead. 

Now after that outrage they returned to their camp^ 
and Freydis appeared to them to think that she had 
arranged matters perfectly : and she said to her men, 
If we are lucky enough to get back to Greenland 
I shall contrive the death of anyone who tells of these 
doings ; we must rather say that they stayed behind 
here when we came away. 

So early in the spring they made the ship ready 
which had belonged to the brothers, and loaded it with 
all the good things which they could collect and the 
ship would hold. After this they put to sea, and had 
a rapid voyage, and came with their ship to Ericsfjord 
early in the summer. Karlsefni was there then, ready 
to put to sea, and waiting for a breeze, and it is said 
that no richer ship ever left Greenland than this which 
he commanded. 

Freydis now went to her house, which had stood 
safe meanwhile, and having given large presents to all 

F R E YD I S 71 

her followers, because she wished to hush up her mis 
deeds, she settled down at home. But all were not so 
close as to keep silent about their crimes and wicked 
ness, jthat it should not leak out anywhere. So now it 
came to the knowledge of her brother Leif, who 
thought it a thoroughly bad business. Then Leif took 
three men of Freydis s crew and tortured them till they 
told the whole of the circumstances, and their stories 
tallied with one another. * I cannot bring myself, 
said Leif, to treat Freydis, my sister, as she deserves, 
but I will predict of them that their stock will never 
be worth much/ And the end of it was that no one 
from that time forward thought anything but ill of 

Now we must go back to the point where Karlsefni 
made ready his ship and sailed to sea. He made 
a good passage, and arriving in Norway safe and sound 
he stayed there for the winter and sold his wares, and 
both he and his wife were honourably received by the 
noblest men in Norway. But in the following spring 
he made his ship ready to sail to Iceland, and when he 
was quite ready and his ship was waiting for a breeze 
alongside the quay, a southerner came to him who 
was of Bremen in Saxony, and bargained with 
Karlsefni for his husa-snotra . 1 I will not sell it , 
said he. I will give you half a mark of gold for it , 
said the southerner. Karlsefni thought it a good bid, 
and thereupon they clinched the bargain. The 
southerner went away with the * husa-snotra ; now 
Karlsefni did not know what wood it was, but it was 
mausur come from Wineland. 

Now Karlsefni put to sea, and came with his ship 
1 The meaning of this word is uncertain. 

72 F R E Y D I S 

along the north of the land to Skagafjord, and his ship 
was laid up there for the winter. But in the spring he 
bought Glaumbaejarland, and built a house there, where 
he passed the remainder of his life : he was a most noble 
man, and many men and a good stock are descended 
from him and his wife Gudrid. And when Karlsefni 
was dead, Gudrid and Snorri her son, who was 
born in Wineland, took over the management of the 
place. But when Snorri married Gudrid went abroad, 
and made a pilgrimage to Rome (lit. : went south), 
and returned to the house of Snorri her son, who had 
by that time had a church built at Glaumbcejar. After 
wards Gudrid became a nun and lived the life of 
a recluse, and she remained there while she lived. 
Snorri had a son named Thorgeir, who was father of 
Ingveld, mother of Bishop Brand. Snorri Karlsefni- 
son had a daughter named Hallfrid, she was the 
mother 1 of Runolf, the father of Bishop Thorlak. 
There was a son of Karlsefni and Gudrid called Bjorn ; 
he was the father of Thorunn, the mother of Bishop 
Bjorn. Many men are descended from Karlsefni, and 
he became blessed in his descendants : and Karlsefni 
has told most clearly of all men the incidents of all 
these voyages, of which something has now .been 

1 A mistake. Hallfrid was the wife of Runolf, and mother of 
Bishop Thorlak. 




Eyrbyggja Saga, chap. 24. 

At the same sessions the family of Thorgest the 
Old and the sons of Thord Gelli prosecuted Eric the 
Red for the slaughter of Thorgest s sons, which had 
occurred in the autumn, when Eric went after his beams 
to Breidabolstad ; and these sessions were very well 
attended. The parties had previously had a numerous 
following. During the sessions Eric had a ship made 
ready for sea in Ericsvag in Oxney : and Eric s party 
were assisted by Thorbjorn Vifilson and Styr the 
Slayer and the sons of Thorbrand of Alptafjord and 
Eyulf ^Esuson from Sviney ; but Styr was Eric s sole 
supporter at the sessions, and he drew away from 
Thorgest all the men he could. Styr then asked 
Snorri Godi not to attack Eric after the sessions with 
Thorgest s men, promising Snorri in return that he 
would help him another time, if he should happen to 
get into difficulties ; and because of this promise 
Snorri lost interest in the proceedings. Now after 
the sessions Thorgest and his men went with a number 
of ships in among the islands, but Eyulf ^Esuson hid 
Eric s ship in Dimunavag, where Styr and Thorbjorn 
met Eric : Eyulf and Styr followed Arnkel s example 
by escorting Eric together on his journey out round 
Ellida Island. 


On that expedition Eric the Red discovered Green 
land, and stayed there three winters, after which he 
went to Iceland, where he stayed one winter before 
setting out to colonize Greenland, and that was four 
teen winters before Christianity was legally established 
in Iceland. 

From Arts hlendingabdk. 

That land, which is called Greenland, was discovered 
and colonized from Iceland. It was a man called Eric 
the Red from Breidafjord who went out thither from 
this country, and he settled in the place which was 
afterwards called Ericsfjord : he named the country, and 
called it Greenland ; saying that the fact that the country 
had a good name would attract men to journey thither. 
They found there, both in the east and the west of 
the country, dwellings of men, and fragments of canoes, 
and stone implements of a kind from which one may 
tell that there the same kind of people had passed who 
have settled in Wineland, and whom the Greenlanders 
call skraelings (savages). Now when he started to 
colonize the country it was fourteen to fifteen winters 
before Christianity came here to Iceland, according 
to what was told Thorkel Gellison in Greenland by 
one who himself accompanied Eric the Red. 

2. LEIF. 
Saga of Olaf Tryggvason (Frissbdk text). 

The same winter Leif, the son of Eric the Red, was 
with King Olaf, in great favour, and he adopted 
Christianity. But that summer when Gizur went to 
Iceland King Olaf sent Leif to Greenland, to preach 
Christianity there. He sailed that summer to Green- 


land. He found at sea men on a wreck, whom he 
assisted. Then too he discovered Wineland the Good, 
and he came jn the autumn to Greenland. He brought 
thither a priest and other clergy, and he went home to 
Eric his father at Brattahlid. Men called him after 
wards Leif the Lucky. But Eric, his father, said that 
the account was balanced, by Leif s rescue of the crew 
at sea, and his importation of the hypocrite to Green 
land. This referred to the priest. 

Kristni Saga (Haitk s Book). 

That summer Olaf the king went from the country 
south to Wendland : then too he sent Leif Ericson to 
Greenland, to preach the faith there : then Leif found 
Wineland the Good, he found also men on a wreck at 
sea, wherefore he was called Leif the Lucky. 

Flatey Book, chap. 352 (in the body of the Saga of Olaf 


Then the king had the Long Serpent brought out, 
and many other ships both great and small. That 
same summer he sent Gizur and Hjalti to Iceland, as 
has already been written. Then King Olaf sent Leif 
to Greenland to preach Christianity there. The king 
got him a priest and some other holy men to baptize 
people there and teach them the true faith. Leif went 
that summer to Greenland, and brought into safety 
a crew of men who were at that time in distress and 
lay upon a wreck. He came at the end of that summer 
to Greenland, and went to Eric his father to stay at 
Brattahlid. Afterwards men called him Leif the Lucky. 
But Eric his father said that the account was balanced, 
in that Leif had rescued the crew and given the men 
life, and had brought a hypocrite to Greenland. So 


he called the priest. Yet by the counsel and persuasion 
of Leif, Eric and all the people in Greenland were 

Saga of Eric the Red and Hanks Book, the latter 


Leif put to sea when he was ready. He was driven 
about at sea for a long time, and lighted on lands 
whose existence he had not before suspected. There 
were wild (lit. : self-sown) wheatfields there, and vines 
growing. There were also those trees which are called 
"mosur", and they had some samples of all these things: 
some of the trees were so large that they were used in 
house-building. Leif found men on a wreck and took 
them home with him, and got them all lodging for the 
winter. He showed in this the greatest courtesy and 
courage, as in many other ways, since he introduced 
Christianity into the country, and rescued the men, and 
he was ever afterwards called Leif the Lucky/ 

Flatey Book. 

When sixteen winters had passed since the time 
when Eric the Red crossed to live in Greenland, Leif, 
Eric s son, travelled from Greenland to Norway : he 
came to Trondhjem in the autumn when King Olaf 
Tryggvason was come from the north from Halogaland 
(A. D. 999). Leif brought his ship into Nidaros, and 
went straight to King Olaf. The king preached the 
faith to him as he did to other heathen men who 
came to him. The king had an easy task with Leif, 
so he was baptized, and all his crew ; Leif stayed with 
the king during the winter, and was hospitably 



Hau&s Book : the companion text is here badly confused 
by the copyist. 

Karlsefni went with one ship to look for Thorhall 
the Hunter, while the main body remained behind, and 
they travelled north past Keelness, and then bore 
along to the west of it, having the land on their port 
side. There there was nothing but desolate woods, 
with hardly any open places. And when they had 
sailed a long time, a river came down from the land 
from the east to the west: they entered the mouth of 
the river, and lay by its southern bank. It happened 
one morning that Karlsefni and his men saw before 
them on an open place a speck, which glittered before 
them, and they shouted at it ; it moved, and it was a 
uniped, which darted down to the bank of the river by 
which they lay. Thorvald, son of Eric the Red, was 
sitting by the rudder, and the uniped shot an arrow into 
his entrails. Thorvald drew out the arrow, crying, 
There is fat about my belly, we have reached a good 
country, though we are hardly allowed to enjoy it. 1 
Thorvald died of this wound soon afterwards. Then 
the uniped rushed away, and back northward. 
Karlsefni and his men pursued him, and saw him from 
time to time. The last they saw of him was that he 
ran towards a certain creek. Then Karlsefni and his 

1 The dying speech ascribed here to Thorvald is evidently borrowed 
from that of Thormod Kolbrunarskald after the battle of Stiklestad, 
where the point is much more easy to grasp. Thorvald means that 
he has come to a land providing plenty of nourishment, otherwise 
he would not be fat. 


men turned back. Thereupon a man sang this little 
ditty : 

Hear, Karlsefni, while I sing 
Of a true but wondrous thing, 
How thy crew all vainly sped, 
Following a uniped : 
Strange it was to see him bound 
Swiftly o er the broken ground. 

Then they went away, and back north, and imagined 
that they saw Uniped Land. They would not then 
risk their people further. 


Saga of Eric the Red and Haitks Book, the latter 

At this time men spoke much of seeking for those 
countries which Leif had found. The leader of the 
project was Thorstein Ericson, a clever and popular 
man. Eric was also asked to join, since his luck and 
foresight were most highly thought of. He was a long 
time making up his mind, but he did not refuse what his 
friends asked ; x so in the end they made ready the 
ship which Thorbjorn had brought over, and manned 
her with twenty men, taking little cargo, mostly arms 
and provisions. The morning when Eric rode from 
his home he took a casket containing gold and silver, 
which he hid before going on his way, but when he 
had hardly started he fell from horseback and broke a 
rib, and hurt his arm in the shoulder-joint, which 
made him cry out. In consequence of this mishap he 
told his wife to remove the money which he had 

1 Following Hauk s text, to supply what is illegible in the other 



hidden, considering that he had incurred this punish 
ment by hiding it. Thereupon they sailed out from 
Ericsfjord in high spirits, thinking most favourably of 
their project. But they were tossed about for a long 
time in the ocean, and could not keep on the course 
which they desired. They sighted Iceland, and they 
came across birds from Ireland. Then their ship was 
driven out over the ocean. They came back in the 
autumn, exceedingly worn out and exhausted ; they 
came to Ericsfjord at the beginning of winter. Then 
Eric said, We were merrier in the summer sailing out 
of the fjord than we are now, and yet we have still 
much to be thankful for. Thorstein replied, e It is 
proper now for the leaders to think out some good 
plan for all these men who are here now unprovided 
for, and to get them lodging for the winter/ Eric 
answered, // is a true saying that one is only wise 
after the event, and our experience proves it. You shall 
now have your way in this matter And so all who 
had no other lodging went with the father and son, after 
which they went home to Brattahlid, where they stayed 
ditring the winter^ 

Now at this point the story tells how Thorstein 
Ericson proposed for the hand of Gudrid, Thorbjorn s 
daughter. The proposal was accepted both by her 
and by her father, and the matter was concluded by 
the marriage of Thorstein to Gudrid, which took place 
at Brattahlid in the autumn. The festivity was a 
success, and very well attended. Thorstein had an 
estate in the Western Settlement, in the district known 
as Lysefjord. A man named Thorstein had also a 

1 Following Hauk s text, the other version being badly confused 


share in the place : his wife s name was Sigrid. 
Thorstein went to Lysefjord in the autumn, to his 
namesake, and Gudrid with him. They were given 
a good reception and stayed there for the winter. But 
as the winter drew on it happened that their estate 
was visited by a plague. The foreman there was 
a man named Gardi, who was an unpopular man : he 
was the first to fall ill and die. After that it was not 
long before one person after another fell ill and died. 
Then Thorstein Ericson and Sigrid, wife of (the other) 
Thorstein, fell ill, and one evening the latter wished to 
go to the yard which stood opposite the front door. 
Gudrid accompanied her, and they sat facing the 
doors. Then Sigrid uttered a cry. We have been 
foolish , said Gudrid, to come unprotected into the 
cold weather, so let us go in at once/ It is not 
possible to do so , replied Sigrid. All the host of the 
dead is here before the doors, and there in the throng 
I recognize Thorstein your husband, and myself, and 
a sad sight it is. And when this passed off she said, 
Now I do not see the host. The foreman had also 
vanished then, who had seemed to Sigrid at first to 
have a whip in his hand, and to have made as if to 
beat the host. After this they went in, and before 
morning came Sigrid was dead, and a coffin was made 
for her body. And the same day men were intending 
to go rowing out, and Thorstein conducted them to 
the quay, and in the twilight he went to see after their 
fishing. Then Thorstein Ericson sent his namesake 
word to come to him, saying that they were having an 
uneasy time in the house, for the housewife made as if 
to get on her feet, and get under the clothes by him ; 
and when Thorstein came in she had come to the 


bedpost close to Ericson. He took her by the hands, 
and laid an axe to her breast. Thorstein Ericson 
died about sunset. (His namesake) Thorstein told 
Gudrid to lie down and sleep, saying that he would 
watch through the night over the bodies. She did as 
he told her and soon fell asleep, but when a little of 
the night was past Thorstein Ericson raised himself 
up, and said that he wished Gudrid to be called there, 
and that he wished to speak to her. It is God s will 
that this hour be given me for leave of absence, and 
for the perfecting of my advice. Thorstein went to 
Gudrid, and woke her, telling her to cross herself and 
pray God to help her, and said, Thorstein Ericson has 
spoken to me, saying that he wishes to see you. Now 
you must decide what to do, for I cannot advise you. 
She replied, * It may be that this, this wonderful event, 
is meant for one of those things which are remembered 
afterwards, but I hope that God will watch over me. 
With God s mercy I will risk speaking to him, for I 
must not at such a time shrink from harm to myself. 
I will do it lest he should go further, for I suspect that 
would happen otherwise. So then Gudrid went and 
saw Thorstein (her husband) and it seemed to her as 
if he shed tears, and spoke some words low in her ear 
so that she alone heard, and he said that those were 
blessed who kept the faith well, and mercy and 
succour attended them : but he said that many kept it 
ill : That is no good custom which has prevailed 
here in Greenland since Christianity was introduced, 
to put men in unconsecrated ground with but little 
singing over them. I wish to be taken to the church 
with the others who have died here, but Gardi I wish 
to have burnt on a pyre as soon as possible, for he is 


the cause of all the apparitions which have been here 
this winter/ l He spoke to her also of her affairs, and 
said that she would have a great future. And he told 
her to beware of marrying a Greenlander : he told her 
too to contribute their money to the church, or to give 
it to poor men, and then he sank back for the second 

The custom in Greenland, since the introduction of 
Christianity, had been that men were buried on the 
farms where they died, in unconsecrated ground, and 
a stake would be set up from their breasts, and later 
on, when priests came, the stake would be drawn up, 
and holy water poured in there, and a funeral service 
sung over them, though it might be long afterwards. 2 

The bodies were carried to the church at Ericsfjord 
and funeral services held over them by the priests. 
After this Thorbjorn died, and all his property then 
came to Gudrid. Eric took her in, and looked after 
her well. 


Flatey Book Version. 

That same summer (when Thorstein the Black 
brought Gudrid to Ericsfjord) a ship ca me to 
Greenland from Norway, commanded by a man 
named Thorfin Karlsefni, who was a son of Thord 
Horsehead, son of Snorri Thordarson of (Hofda). 8 
Thorfin Karlsefni was a wealthy man, and he stayed at 

1 Or, he lords it over all the apparitions , etc. 

2 I have heard of a similar custom in the more remote parts of 
Norway at the present day, where the visits of the priest are infrequent. 
The only difference is that earth is sprinkled into the hole when the 
funeral service is read, instead of holy water. 

3 Word omitted in MS. 


Brattahlid with Leif Ericson during the winter. He 
soon turned his attention to Gudrid, and proposed to 
her, but she left it to Leif to answer for her. After 
wards -they were betrothed, and their wedding took 
place that winter. There were the same discussions 
as before about a Wineland voyage, and people- 
both Gudrid and others strongly urged Karlsefni to 
undertake that journey. So then his expedition was 
arranged, and he engaged his crew, sixty men and five 
women. Karlsefni agreed with his crew that they 
should have an equal share in any profit they might 
make. They had with them all kinds of cattle, 
because they proposed to colonize the country if they 
could. Karlsefni asked Leif for his houses in Wine- 
land, but he declared that he would lend his houses 
but not give them. Afterwards they put out to sea with 
their ship, and arriving at Leif s camp safe and sound 
they carried up their baggage. 

They soon made a great and a good catch, for a 
whale both large and good was stranded there, upon 
which they went to the whale and cut it up ; they were 
then in no want of food. The cattle went ashore there, 
but it soon came about that the males were unmanage 
able, and made great havoc about them. They had 
brought a bull with them. Karlsefni had wood cut, 
and shaped into a cargo for the ship, and laid the 
wood on a rock to season. They all took advantage 
of the valuable resources of the country, such as there 
were in the way of grapes and all kinds of game and 
good things. In the summer following the first 
winter they became acquainted with savages, a great 
crowd of whom came from the forest : their cattle were 
close by, and the bull began to bellow and roar very 



loudly ; now this terrified the savages, and they ran 
away with their packs, which consisted of grey furs 
and sables and all kinds of peltries, and turning 
towards Karlsefni s house they would have entered it, 
but Karlsefni had the doors guarded. Neither side 
understood the speech of the other : then the savages 
brought down their packs and undid them and offered 
their wares, desiring especially weapons in exchange, 
but Karlsefni forbade his men to sell weapons. And 
now he hit upon the idea of telling the women to carry 
out milk to them, and when they saw the milk they 
wished to buy that and nothing else. So then the 
result of the savages trading was that they carried 
away their purchases in their stomachs, but Karlsefni 
and his companions kept their bales and furs ; so they 
went away. 

Now the story goes that Karlsefni had a strong 
palisade made round his house, and preparations made 
there (for defence). At that time Gudrid, Karlsefni s 
wife, bore a boy child, and the boy was called Snorri. 
Then at the beginning of the second winter the 
savages came to them in much greater numbers than 
before, with the same kind of wares as previously. 
Thereupon Karlsefni said to the women, * Nt>w you 
must carry out the food for which there was a demand 
on the former occasion, and nothing else. And when 
they saw it they threw their packs in over the 

But Gudrid was sitting in the doorway by the cradle 
of Snorri her son : then a shadow appeared in the 
doorway and there came in a woman in a black 
1 namkirtle . She was rather short, and had a band 
round her head ; her hair was light brown ; she was 


pale and had eyes so large that no one had ever seen 
eyes so large in a human head. She went up to 
where Gudrid was sitting, and said, What is your 
name ?- My name is Gudrid, said she ; but what 
is yours ? My name is Gudrid , said she. Then 
Gudrid the housewife beckoned with her hand to her 
to sit by her, when all of a sudden Gudrid heard a 
great crash, and the woman had then vanished, and 
simultaneously one of the savages was killed by one 
of Karlsefni s servants, because he had wanted to steal 
their arms, whereupon they ran away as fast as 
possible, leaving their clothing and wares behind them. 
No one had seen that woman but Gudrid only. 

Now we must take counsel, said Karlsefni, for I 
imagine they will pay us a third visit in a strong and 
hostile body. Now the plan which we should adopt is 
that ten men go forward on to this point and show 
themselves there, while the rest of our force go into 
the forest and there cut clearings for our cattle, as the 
army comes out of the wood. We ought also to take 
our bull, and let it go before us. 

Now the place where their meeting was arranged 
had a lake on one side and the forest on the other. 
Karlsefni s advice was followed, and the savages came 
into the place which Karlsefni had planned for the 
battle ; so the fight took place, and many of the 
savages army fell. There was a tall and distinguished 
man in the army of the savages, who Karlsefni 
thought must be their chief: now one of the savages 
had taken up an axe, and having looked at it for a 
while he raised it against one of his fellows and hewed 
at him so that he fell dead ; whereat the tall man took 
hold of the axe and looked at it for a time, after which 


he flung it into the sea as far as he could ; and there 
upon they fled into the forest, each one as best he 
might, and thus their fight then came to an end. 

Karlsefni s men were there all that winter, but in 
spring Karlsefni announced that he would not stay 
there longer, but would sail to Greenland. So then 
they made ready for their voyage, and they brought 
thence much that was of value in vines and grapes and 
furs. Now they put out to sea, and came safely to 
Ericsfjord with their ship, and were there for the 


Saga of Eric the Red with If auks Book. ( The latter 

The second summer after this Karlsefni came to 
Iceland, and Snorri l with him, and he went home to 
Reynisness. His mother thought that he had made 
a poor match, and so Gudrid was not at their house 
the first winter. But when she found that Gudrid was 
a very fine lady she came home, and they got on well 

The daughter of Snorri Karlsefnison was Hallfrid, 
the mother of Bishop Thorlak, son of Runolf. They 
(i.e. Karlsefni and Gudrid) had a son called Thorbjorn. 
His daughter was called Thorunn, the mother of 
Bishop Bjorn. There was a son of Snorri Karlsefnison 
called Thorgeir, the father of Ingveld, the mother of 
Bishop Brand the first. Another daughter of Snorri 
Karlsefnison was Sleinunn, who married Einar, son of 
Grunda-Ketil, son of 7~horvald Krok, son of Thori 

1 Hauk s Book, Gudrid . 


of Espihol. Their son ivas Thor stein the Unjust, who 
was father to Gudrun who married Jorund of Keldi : 
their daughter was Halla, mother of Flosi, father of 
Valgerda, mother of Sir Erlend the Strong, father 
of Sir Hauk the Lawman. Another daughter of Flosi 
was Thordis, mother of Lady Ingigerd the Rich. Her 
daughter was Lady Hallbera, abbess of Reynisness at 
Stad. A number of great men in Iceland besides are 
sprung from Karlsefni and Gudrid, who are not 
catalogued here. God be wit hits. Amen. And that is 
the end of this story. 

Aris Islendingabdk. 

And, the woman colonist, who settled to the west of 
Breidafjord in Hvamm, was mother of Thorstein the 
Red, father of Olaf Feilan, father of Thord Gelli, 
father of Thorhild Rype, mother of Thord Horsehead, 
father of Carlsefni, father of Snorri, father of Hallfrid, 
mother of Thorlak, who is now bishop in Scalaholt. 




IN order to judge what historical value should be 
assigned to the narrative here translated, it is necessary 
for the reader to have a clear idea of the nature of saga 
literature, and some notion of the process by which 
such stories were transmitted from the time of their 
occurrence to the period, more than three centuries 
later, when they assumed the form which is now 
known to us. In view of the fact, which must be at 
once conceded, that we are dependent upon an interval 
of oral tradition before any written account of the 
Wineland voyages can have come into existence, we 
must first of all consider how the special characteristics 
of story-telling in Iceland affect the reliability of such 
tradition ; next we should look for any early corrobora- 
tion bearing upon the questions involved; and. finally 
we must consider the manuscripts which form the 
basis of the story, and inquire into any circumstances 
which may make one source preferable to another. 

Oral Tradition in Iceland. 

None of the Wineland voyages which form the 
subject of our inquiry can have taken place later than 
say A. D. 1030, and the earliest would appear to date 
from as early as 986. Until the inconvenient runic 
alphabet, suited only to short inscriptions, was super- 


seded by something better adapted to the requirements 
of fluent literary composition, the history of such 
events could be preserved only by word of mouth. 
This -change did not occur till at any rate nearly a 
century had elapsed from the time of the occurrences 
with which we are dealing. Oral tradition, however, 
may, under favourable conditions, show a fidelity to 
the actual facts which is at first sight surprising. 
Mention might be made in this connexion of the 
Scottish Highlands, where, in spite of the Celtic 
imagination, the shenachies or prose annalists 
attached to the more important families have been 
found to have transmitted historical facts which have 
been most exactly confirmed by subsequent investi 
gation of documentary evidence. A little consideration 
will show that this is not so extraordinary as one 
might superficially be disposed to imagine. The dis 
tinction, recognized by our law, between libel and 
slander is partly at any rate based upon a consideration 
which should be borne in mind in this connexion. 
The written word remains, even though contradicted 
and disproved ; nay, it may not infrequently survive 
its contradiction. The verbal narrator of contemporary 
events, however, is always liable to have among his 
audience those who are as thoroughly conversant 
with the facts described as he is himself. An in 
accuracy may be suddenly and unpleasantly brought 
to book ; the lie is no sooner uttered than it is 
denounced and exposed. We find a good illustration 
of the embarrassing predicament in which a story 
teller might find himself placed (though the hero in 
this instance came out of the ordeal with credit) in 
the episode of the Icelandic saga-man at the court 


of King Harald Haardraade which is reproduced among 
the excerpts in Vigfusson and Powell s Icelandic Reader 
(p. 141). This young man, we are told, was taken in 
at court for the purpose of entertaining the body 
guard with his sagas. About Christmas time he 
began to grow melancholy, and on the cause being 
investigated it was found that he had used up all 
his stories but one just at the time the Yuletide 
festivities when his accomplishment was most in 
demand. This remaining story he hesitated to recite, 
for it was the saga of the king s own travels. En 
couraged, however, by Harald himself, he ventured 
upon his embarrassing task, the hero of the exploits 
described being present among the audience. The 
story was told, and the days passed by, but the Ice 
lander evinced no curiosity to know how his rendering 
had pleased the person who had first-hand knowledge 
of the facts. * I am afraid about it w^as his reply, 
when the king drew his attention to this omission 
on his part. Harald reassured him, however, saying 
that his version was perfectly correct, and inquired 
the source from which so accurate a report had been 
obtained. On learning that one Halldor Snorrison 
was the person originally responsible, the king said 
that he was no longer surprised at the accuracy of the 
tale, and offered the narrator the hospitality of his 
court on any future occasion when he might wish to 
come there. 

Another instance, where the consequences were 
not so satisfactory to the story-teller, occurs in Njal s 
Saga, where Gunnar Lambison is requested by King 
Sigtrygg in the Orkneys to give an account of the 
burning of Njdl in his house, to which he had been 


a party. He starts telling the story in an unfair and 
inaccurate manner, stating among other things t|iat 
Skarphedinn, Njal s son, had wept as the danger closed 
round him. Upon this Kari, who has been listening 
at the door, dashes in with a drawn sword, and cuts 
off the head of the untruthful historian. Flosi, another 
of the burners, defends and justifies Kari s action, and 
thereupon tells the story himself, and as he favours 
neither one side nor the other unduly in his narration 
we are told that his story was believed. 

Now the conditions of this art of story-telling in 
Iceland were unusually favourable to the maintenance 
of an accurate tradition. In the first place, as may 
be seen from the instance cited, the practice was to 
all intents and purposes contemporaneous with the 
occurrence of the events described. In the second 
place, a point which will fall to be developed later on, 
it is evident that the taste of the Icelandic audience 
was intensely practical and unimaginative. Supersti 
tions no doubt there were, in Iceland as throughout 
the whole world of this and indeed far later periods, 
but even their ghosts and supernatural occurrences 
are treated by this people, far more than by any other 
with whose works I am conversant, as something all 
in the day s work. The Icelander did not want, like 
the Celt or the later Romancers, to surround his 
heroes with an atmosphere of picturesque mythology ; 
his principal desire was to learn in the utmost detail 
exactly how everything was done, with the dates, 
genealogies, and circumstances relevant to the story 
to which he was listening. 

I have mentioned the word genealogies, and this 
brings me to the last factor which operated in favour 


of the accuracy of oral tradition in Iceland. The 
colony was from its very nature composed of a great 
number of more or less connected families, equal in 
social status, and known to each other to consist of 
men of like passions with themselves. There was 
no king, no outstanding heroic personality, round 
whose unapproachable majesty the flattering tongues 
of courtiers could weave their myths and fictions. 
The saga-teller moreover was not, like the bards and 
shenachies of the Scottish Highlands, the appanage 
of a single family. He moved from place to place, 
whiling away the monotony of the Arctic winter with 
his histories, and the hero of one locality was in 
another an ancestor or a member of a family in no 
way superior to the persons who were gathered to 
hear the tale. Each listener was deeply versed in 
genealogy, a subject which was clearly regarded as 
of primary importance. Most great families, by dint 
of intermarriage, were connected with at all events 
some of the characters which were introduced into 
almost any saga, and the necessity of reciting correctly 
before the most critical of audiences the intricate 
ramifications of all the family trees occurring in the 
course of the narrative must have been the* best 
possible discipline to produce a school where accuracy 
was placed above every other consideration. 

From the circumstance, too, that the story had to 
satisfy the inhabitants and the visitors of a number 
of different settlements, with an equal social status 
but with frequently conflicting interests, arose the 
characteristic which has often been noticed by students 
of Icelandic literature, that both or all sides of a 
question are stated fairly, the author or reciter being, 


as Vigfusson has put it, a heathen with the heathen, 
a wrathful man with the avenger, and a sorrowful man 
with the mourner, as his style reflects the varied 
feelings of his dramatis personae - 1 

We have therefore the best of grounds for imagining 
that the exploits of those who fought, litigated, or 
explored in the tenth and eleventh centuries were 
carried with truth, impartiality, and accuracy over the 
brief interval which separated them from the age of 
written history, which dawned with Ari the Learned. 

Ari the Learned. 

This pioneer of Icelandic history and of the age of 
writing was born, as we learn from the Icelandic Annals, 
in the year following the Norman conquest of England 
(1067). His grandfather, Gelli, was a contemporary 
of Karlsefni, and was in fact his second cousin. (See 
Genealogical Table, p. 20.) We are expressly told 
by Ari that his uncle, Thorkel Gellison, supplied 
him with information relating to Eric the Red, which 
he had obtained from direct speech with one of the 
latter s companions. The events with which we are 
concerned thus fall within a period bridged by one 
human memory from the time of occurrence to the 
period when they could be recorded in writing, and 
when written history, as superseding oral tradition, 
may be said to begin. 

It is moreover worthy of note in passing that the 
most important explorer with whom these sagas deal, 
Thorfin Karlsefni, was of the same stock as Ari, and 
must almost necessarily have been personally known 
to one of his informants, his uncle Thorkel. 

1 Prolegom. to Slurlunga, p. xxv. 

94 N A T U R E O F 

It should also be remarked that one of the persons 
for whom Ari expressly tells us that he composed his 
Islendingabok, and to whom he showed it, was Bishop 
Thorlak, the grandson of that Snorri who, as we are 
told in the saga, was born to Karlsefni in Wineland. 

To the truthful and conscientious work of Ari the 
Learned a well-known introductory passage in the 
history of the kings of Norway known as Heimskringla 
bears eloquent witness. The author of this book was 
greatly indebted to the researches of Ari ; in fact, though 
the latter s original work on the subject of the Norse 
kings no longer exists in its intact and primitive form, 
we know that such a book was among his literary 
achievements, and was in all probability followed closely 
by subsequent compilers of stories relating to the 
earlier history of Norway. Unfortunately, however, 
greatly as later writers were indebted to Ari, of his 
original work only one book remains, and this in a 
highly condensed and summarized form. This is the 
fslendingabok, or history of the Icelanders. We 
know from the author s own statement that this book 
was originally written in a different and probably more 
extended form, of which no copies now remain, but 
the little book now extant contains, besides a genealogy 
of Karlsefni, one passage valuable to us in dealing 
with the present subject, from the early corroboration 
which it affords of the essential outlines of our story. 
This passage, which will also be found in the Appendix 
of Supplementary Passages, p. 74, may be rendered 
as follows : 

The country which is called Greenland was dis 
covered and colonized from Iceland. It was a man 
called Eric the Red from Breidafjord who went out 


thither from this country, and he took land in the 
place which was afterwards called Ericsfjord : he named 
the country and called it Greenland, saying that the 
fact that the country had a good name would attract 
men to journey thither. They found there, both in 
the east and the west of the country, dwellings of 
men, and fragments of canoes, and stone implements 
of a kind from which one could tell that a race had 
come (far it) there of the kind that inhabited (byg) 
Wineland, and whom the Greenlanders call Skrczlings. 
Now the date when the settlement of that country 
was started was from fourteen to fifteen winters 
before Christianity came here to Iceland, according to 
an account given to Thorkel Gellison in Greenland by 
one who himself accompanied Eric the Red out. 

This casual reference would appear to afford the 
strongest confirmation both of the known and recog 
nized existence of Wineland, and, in particular, of the 
episodes described in the sagas relating to the savages 
or skraelings . 

It furnishes besides, in the present writer s opinion, 
proof positive that a land inhabited by savages had 
been visited by the Norsemen at a time when no 
such people had actually been met with in Greenland 
itself. The Eskimo of Greenland, it will be observed, 
had, so far as Ari s information went, come and gone 
before the Norse occupation (farit), and their existence 
was only inferred from the traces above described, 
while the natives of Wineland had at the same date 
a local habitation (bygf) and a name . Skraelings 
was not therefore a title transferred from known 
inhabitants of Greenland to savages figuring in tales 
of Wineland ; the reverse was the case. 

This point will be developed later, and certain 


objections which have been raised to this interpretation 
of the passage will be fully dealt with, but it will at 
once be seen that it is of considerable importance in 
its bearing upon the accuracy of the saga and the 
fact of the Norse discovery. 

The Landnamabok. 

Another work of high authority, in which it is certain 
that the conscientious hand of Ari played a large part, 
is the Landnamabok or history of the settlement of 
Iceland. Hauk Erlendson, in his edition of this 
classic, expressly acknowledges the authorship of the 
master, saying that it is according to that which 
first priest Ari the Learned, Thorgil s son, has written, 
and Kolskegg the Wise . Kolskegg was a contem 
porary of Ari s, and Vigfusson 1 thinks that his share 
in the collaboration was confined to supplying the 
genealogies of the Eastern district. Judging from 
its uniformity of style, this great authority 2 has no 
hesitation in ascribing the sole authorship of the 
Landnamabok to Ari and Kolskegg. The authoritative 
character of this work has a direct bearing upon our 
subject, for it is evident that the writers of both 
versions of the story drew largely from its pages, 
indeed both versions contain a great deal of absolutely 
literal quotation. 

As regards Wineland itself, however, the Landnd 
mabok has but little to say. It was in fact foreign 
to the purpose of a book whose whole scope was con 
fined to Iceland, and we ought not therefore to expect 
more than we actually find. The only reliable mention 
of the place is in the passage relating to Ari Marsson, 

1 Prolegom. to Sturlunga, p. xxxvii. 2 Ibid., p. xxxi, 


who is there said to have been cast upon Hvitra- 
mannaland, which some call Ireland the Great, it lies 
westward in the sea near Wineland the Good . The 
importance attaching to this passage is that Wineland 
is casually mentioned as a well-known locality from 
which the position of Hvitramannaland could be 
approximately fixed, without the necessity of further 
explanation. Another passage, relating to * Karlsefni 
who found Wineland the Good , is of less value, as 
it is in all probability an interpolation by Hauk, which 
consequently affords no independent corroboration of 
the discovery. 

Adam of Bremen. 

It has therefore been established so far that at the 
time when writing superseded oral tradition the fact 
of the discovery of a Wineland by the Norsemen 
was perfectly well known, that it lay to the west (vide 
Landnamabok), and contained savages. The name 
moreover affords some corroboration in itself of the 
details given in the sagas with reference to the dis 
covery of grapes there. A further confirmation of the 
facts recorded as to the principal products of the 
country must now be dealt with. This dates from 
an even earlier period, and comes from an independent 
source, the Descriptio of the islands or countries 
of the North which was written by Adam of Bremen. 
This worthy became director of the cathedral school 
in Bremen in or about the year of Ari s birth (1067), 
and derived, as he tells us, the information upon which 
his description is based from Svein Estridson, King 
of the Danes, who died in 1076. 

Knowledge obtained from such a source brings us 

98 N A T U R E O F 

practically to the lifetime of Karlsefni s contemporaries, 
and well within that of many who might remember 
him or his associates. In the geographical work 
referred to, Adam inserts the following reference to 
Wineland : 

* He (King Svein) told me of yet another island 
besides, discovered by many in that Ocean, which is 
called Wineland , from the fact that there vines grow 
naturally, producing the best wine. Moreover that 
corn abounds there without sowing we have ascertained, 
not from fabulous conjecture, but from the reliable 
(certa) report of the Danes/ 

Prima facie, therefore, we have here the most con 
troversial part of the whole story the existence of the 
wild corn and vines substantiated by an authority 
based on a Scandinavian source, almost within the 
lifetime of the explorers themselves. In view of 
a contention which will be dealt with more fully later, 
that the accounts of vines and wild corn occurring in 
the sagas are derived from references to the Fortunate 
Islands in Isidore Hispalensis and classical works, it 
may be important to note here the emphasis laid by 
the writer on the source of his information. 

Adam of Bremen, a learned continental magister, 
must have been already familiar with the numerous 
legends relating to these Fortunate Islands, references 
to which are frequent in many classical authorities, and 
he appears to be anticipating the criticism which has in 
fact been made, when he draws, as he does, a careful 
distinction between fabidosa opinio and certa relatio 
Danorum. He seems in fact to be saying, Of course 
you think that this is another story based on classical 
legends which are familiar to you, but it is nothing 


of the sort : when I was in Denmark I had the oppor 
tunity of questioning the Danes whose information 
I have recorded, and I find it impossible to conclude 
that this is merely a case of the Insulae Fortunatae at 
second hand. 

Date of the Existing Manuscripts. 

We may now pass on to consider the sources from 
which the present translation is drawn. The existing 
manuscripts, it will be found, are none of them earlier 
than the fourteenth century, but it may be well to 
point out that this fact is not so damaging to their 
credit as might be supposed. 

The day of oral tradition was long over, the day of 
documentary history had been long established, and 
the compilers of those versions which we now possess 
must have worked in the main not from oral tradition, 
but from earlier written sagas which had then attained 
to a large extent the form in which we have them. 
A well-known passage in the Sturlunga Saga is not 
without a bearing on this point. Nearly all stories , 
it says, * which had been made in Iceland before Bishop 
Brand S^emundson died (A.D. 1201) had been com 
mitted to writing ; but stories of things which have 
taken place since were hardly committed to writing 
at all before the skald Sturla Thordson dictated the 
Iceland Sagas. Now while we may admit, with 
Vigfusson, that this passage has reference primarily to 
the three sagas which have at this point been incor 
porated in Sturlunga, it is clear that nearly all 
stories cannot be a statement confined to three, and 
must have a general reference to the condition of 
all the stories known at that date. It follows that any 

G 2 


events which took place before 1201 had in all proba 
bility assumed a more or less fixed written form before 
Sturla (born c. 1217) started to write down the later 

The contributions of later scribes would appear to 
have been confined for the most part to bringing the 
genealogies down to their own day ; the fashion of 
romanticizing the earlier material to any great extent 
did not become general till a later date than those 
which we have to consider. . 

That Eric s Saga had assumed a written form before 
the Flatey Book version was compiled is evident from 
the reference to it in the opening chapter of that story : 
4 Thence arose the quarrels and fights between Eric 
and Thorgest which are related in Eric s Saga/ How 
far the saga of Eric known to the compilers of the 
Flatey Book corresponded with any work which now 
bears the same name is a question which cannot be 
adequately discussed till we have considered further 
the nature and authenticity of the versions from which 
the translation has been derived. 1 

Book and the Saga of Eric the Red. 

Our knowledge of the Wineland voyages is obtained, 
as the careful reader of the translation will discover, 
from two apparently independent sources, which may 
for convenience be described as H auk s version and 
that of the Flatey Book. The story as known to 
Hauk is found in two manuscripts : one contained in 
H auk s Book and partly written by his own hand ; the 
other, in an early fifteenth-century hand, is No. 557 
4to in the collection of Arne Magnusson, and is most 
1 See below, p. 108. 


conveniently designated according to its actual title- 
as the Saga of Eric the Red. 

This last-named manuscript, while it was undoubtedly 
written long after H auk s Book, probably embodies 
the earlier and better text of this version, It is cer 
tainly not a free rendering of the story, but a literal 
transcript of some earlier manuscript, for it contains 
a number of typical copyist s errors. There are, for 
example, words repeated twice in succession, and pas 
sages which as they stand are meaningless, and require 
some simple emendation. It is equally certain that 
the text followed was not that of Hauk, for the language 
differs slightly throughout, and there are sentences in 
each version neither occurring in the other nor arising 
from it by necessary implication. The theory that the 
Saga of Eric the Red embodies an earlier text than 
that of Hauk is deduced by experts from the greater 
simplicity of the language in the former version. To 
the lay mind the most convincing proof is to be derived 
from the genealogy at the end of the saga. As has 
already been stated, it was the practice of transcribers 
to bring such pedigrees down to their own day. Hauk 
follows this practice, tracing the line of Karlsefni down 
to himself. The Saga of Eric stops short at Bishop 
Brand the first, several generations earlier. Hauk, 
according to his account, was the great-great-great- 
grandson of Bishop Brand s second cousin. (See 
Genealogical Table, p, 20.) The fact, however, that 
Bishop Brand is described as the first shows con 
clusively that the text copied in Eric s Saga was not 
completed till the ordination of the second bishop of 
that name, which took place in 1263. 

Of course, as far as this goes, it is not inconsistent 

102 * AT rE OF 

with the writers of these two versions having worked 
from the same manuscript, which Hauk altered and 
edited, while the other scribe contented himself with 
a literal copy. While, however, the sense of Hauk s 
version follows approximately that of the rival manu 
script, the language is rarely identical for many words 
together. Had both been working from the same 
manuscript, this is not what one would expect to find : 
it is so much simpler to transcribe a passage verbatim, 
when the meaning which it is intended to convey is as 
adequately given by such a method. And Hauk s 
text occasionally gives us information which cannot 
be explained as a mere intelligent amplification of the 

We are consequently justified in all probability in 
imagining that the common origin of the two versions 
must be assigned to a period considerably earlier than 
either. Finnur Jonsson, an excellent critic of Icelandic 
styles, considers that we may give the common arche- 
type as early a date as 1200. As regards the date of 
the extant manuscripts, to which, for reasons already 
given, too much importance should not be attached, it is 
sufficient to state that Hauk died in 1334, and as his 
own hand concludes the saga it must have been written 
some time before that date. The clue given by the 
mention of Bishop Brand the first , noticed above, is 
common to both manuscripts, and fixes the period before 
which neither manuscript was completed at 1263. In 
the case of Hauk s Book these limits are further 
narrowed by the mention of Hallbera with her title as 
Abbess of Reynisness. We know that this lady attained 
this position in 1 299, so that Hauk s Book cannot have 
been completed before this date. 


Hank s Personal Authority. 

Mr. W. H. Babcock, in his clear and valuable treatise 
on the subject, 1 lays considerable stress on the fact 
that Hauk was a descendant of Karlsefni, as enhancing 1 
the authority of this version of the narrative. To 
some extent this is a good point, but it may be doubted 
whether H auk s knowledge of his ancestors was suffi 
cient to check the written records accessible in his day. 
He follows the demonstrable error of Landnamabok in 
making Thorbjorn Vifilson the son of Aud s freedman, 
which a close examination of the chronological data 
shows to be an altogether untenable theory. (See 
Genealogical Table, p. 20.) He was separated from 
Karlsefni by no fewer than eight generations, and any 
reader who takes the trouble to consider how much he 
knows of the achievements of so distant an ancestor 
will no doubt form the conclusion that Hauk was not 
in a position to throw much additional light on the 
subject, though it was naturally of peculiar interest to 
him. All we can say is that he regarded the saga as 
historical and not romantic, and his wide experience of 
Icelandic literature, quite apart from his family con 
nexions, made him a good judge. That he had no 
special private sources of information is clear from the 
fact that he transcribed the saga practically as it stood. 
It cannot be sustained that he discarded the Flatey 
version, or preferred the alternative ; it seems much 
more likely that the editors of the Flatey Book tapped 
sources to which he never had access. Hauk, had he 
deliberately compared the two authorities, would for 
example inevitably have selected the Flatey version 

1 Early Norse Visits to North America. Washington, 1913. 


of the stranded-whale episode, as this tallies much 
better than his own text wi,h the older verses incor 
porated. (Cf. next chapter, p. 132.) Hauk, in fact, 
merely copied, with more or less intelligence, the only 
version of the story which he knew, and his manuscript, 
therefore, stands on exactly the same footing as the 
Saga of Eric the Red : coming from a common arche 
type they of course afford no independent corroboration 
of one another. 

Independence of the Flatey Version. 

That such corroboration is, however, afforded by the 
version contained in the Flatey Book is, I think, clear 
to demonstration. But for the attitude of some modern 
writers on the subject, the independence of this account 
might be said to be beyond dispute, whatever its relative 
value as an authority might be. Some commentators 
have, however, attempted to establish that the Flatey 
Book is but an embroidery based on the rival text. 
Thus Mr. Juul Dieserud, in the Bulletin of the Ameri 
can Geographical Society (1901), states boldly that the 
Flatey Book * borrowed incidents and descriptions from 
the story of Thorfin . He adds : This may seem to 
be a hazardous conjecture, but . . . the only way "out of 
it is to regard the saga of Thorfin as the result of a 
similar process. 

The alternative, however, with which Mr. Dieserud 
here considers himself to be faced, is by no means the 
only one. The depositions of two witnesses to 
a matter of fact may show many points of agreement 
as well as discrepancies without any collusion or bor 
rowing whatsoever. So, too, different authors may 
treat of a question of history or tradition without 


having consulted each other s works. Again, if I 
and a friend go through some experience together 
suppose, for instance, that we serve in the same unit 
during the war the accounts which we transmit to 
our respective descendants may be quite independent 
of one another. A charge of plagiarism, under such 
conditions, needs to be established by definite and 
cogent evidence. 

Now what does Mr. Dieserud put forward as proof 
or support of his contention ? He says, for example, 
* an incident related of the stalwart Freydis and the 
short mention of some quarrels caused by the women 
during the last winter in Straumsfjord sets somebody s 
imagination working till we get a gruesome tale of her 
separate expedition to Wineland in company with the 
brothers Helgi and Finnbogi . The quarrels over (not 
otherwise caused by) the women in the Saga of Eric 
the Red are of a purely sexual character. The 
bachelors, we are told, coveted the wives of the married 
men. This situation, though hardly unique, might well 
provide an imaginative mind with a plot like that of a 
modern problem novel. But where is anything of the 
kind to be traced in the Flatey Book story of Freydis ? 
There is no quarrel about women ; in fact, feminine 
charm was hardly Freydis s strong point. There is 
a purely mercenary dispute about the ownership of a 
boat, in which a person who is incidentally a woman 
plays the principal part. In short, there is no sort of 
connexion between the two plots ; it might as well be 
said that the story of Jezebel and Naboth was a plagi 
arism from that of David and Bathsheba. 

In the same way, the alleged development of Bjarni 
Herjulfson from Bjarni Grirnolfson, which is also 


asserted by Joseph Fischer, l rests upon no more solid 
foundation than the coincidence of a name by no means 
uncommon in Icelandic literature. Storm, more cor 
rectly, recognizes the Bjarni of the Flatey Book as * en 
ellers ganske ubekjendt person (a person otherwise 
quite unknown), and Neckel s Erste Entdeckung A meri- 
kas makes use of an identical expression. Would 
anyone, desiring to make up a good story about Bjarni 
Grimolfson, neglect the dramatic episode of his death 
in the worm-eaten ship, as given in the saga of Eric ? 
Why, as Neckel says, not let him land and find the 
vines and corn, if the object was to give him a credit 
not his due ? Apart from their first names, Bjarni 
Grimolfson and Bjarni Herjulfson have nothing what 
ever in common. When Fischer says, Only in this way 
(i.e. by inventing the Flatey Book story) could the priest 
(John Thordson, one of the scribes of the Flatey Book) 
ascribe the honour of the discovery of Wineland to his 
hero Bjarni, who was really only one of the band who 
accompanied Karlsefni on his later expedition , one is 
disposed to ask, Who treats Bjarni as a hero ? He gets 
no credit for the discovery which accident threw in his 
way; Leif is here, as elsewhere, treated as the discoverer 
of Wineland : nay, we are told that Bjarni was severely 
criticized for lack of enterprise in not pursuing his 
investigations further. Moreover, if Bjarni Grimolfson 
was John Thordson s hero, why change his surname 
altogether ? 

The third parallel suggested by Mr. Dieserud is 
between Tyrker in the Flatey Book and Hake and 
Hekja in Eric s Saga. Hake and Hekja, one would 
think, make a more picturesque appeal to an imaginative 

1 Die Entdeckungen der Normannen in Amerika. Freiburg, 1902. 


writer than Tyrker. They are at least as good material 
for a story. But they are Scots or Celts while Tyrker 
is a German, they are two while he is one ; in fact, they 
show few points of resemblance. A better case could 
be made out for a comparison between Tyrker and 
Thorhall the Hunter, though even this would be pretty 
remote. These are the three instances most promin 
ently put forward to substantiate a charge of plagiarism. 
When we look for points in one version which must 
inevitably have been included in the other if the two 
accounts were interdependent, we are only struck by 
the dissimilarity. The wild corn, so prominent in Eric s 
Saga and in the popular accounts which reached Adam 
of Bremen, is not mentioned anywhere in the Flatey 
Book. The stranded whale, evidently a fact, as shown 
by Thorhall s verses, is referred to, but the whole point 
of the story, as a story, is destroyed by too literal 
adherence to what appears to be the simple truth. 

On the other hand, numerous statements of a circum 
stantial nature are made in the Flatey version which 
find no place in the rival account. The important 
eyktarstad observation (see Chapter V) is a good 
instance of this. The Flatey Book gives the south 
westerly course which the necessities of the case, as 
known to us, demand, but we look in vain for such a 
course in Eric s Saga or Hauk s Book, which follow the 
current ideas of Icelandic geographers in reporting 
a uniform progress to the south. Is it suggested that 
the greater accuracy of the Flatey Book in this parti 
cular is a freak of a vivid but uninstructed imagination ? 
The savages, sleeping under their boats, as Jacques 
Cartier found them centuries later, are also mentioned 
in the Flatey Book alone. It is true that the authors 

io8 N A T U R E O F 

,of this version, coming to the conclusion that all the 
explorers made the same landfall, have felt at liberty 
to draw the description of Leif s camp from what 
appears to be a report of Karlsefni s Hop, but, assuming 
the latter place to have been actually discovered by 
Karlsefni, there is no evidence in this that another saga 
was consulted at all. In short, I can find no evidence 
whatever that the compilers of the Flatey Book version 
had any knowledge of the rival account known to us. 
It is true that Finnur J6nsson l considers that the 
reference to Eric s saga in the introductory matter 
quoted from Landnama is to the document known to 
us by that name ; but, with all respect to the views of 
so fine an Icelandic scholar, such a theory seems to me 
untenable. In the first place, in the passage in question 
the author must be alluding to a story so well known 
to his audience that he can refer them to it without 
hesitation. A fortiori a story known to himself. Yet 
no one who had more than the haziest recollection of 
our Eric s Saga could possibly make the wide departures 
from it which are characteristic of the Flatey version. 
Secondly, the reference to the quarrels and fights 
between Eric and Thorgest suggests a detailed account 
of the whole dispute. Yet the matter omitted in the 
Flatey Book from that supplied by Landnama, which is 
the source quoted by all our authorities at this stage, 
amounts to no more than a bane mention of the battle 
which brought about Eric s banishment, and that on his 
return to Iceland which was the prelude to reconciliation. 
The omissions are in fact hardly longer than the explana 
tion which the author inserts. The object of the 

1 Opdagehen af og Reiserne til Vinland, Aarbog for Nordisk 
Oldkyndighed, etc., for 1915. 


reference being clearly to effect a saving of time or 
space, one must suppose that the allusion is to some 
fuller account. But even if the reference were to our 
Eric s Saga, it would not disprove the independence of 
the Flatey version as a whole, since at this point the 
compiler has not reached the stage where he incor 
porates new matter, but is copying practically verbatim 
an abridgement from Landnama which is to be found 
in other texts of the Saga of Olaf Tryggvason. The 
reference to * Eric s saga is part of a quotation, rather 
than an original observation. In fact, as Neckel puts 
it, the (Flatey Book) narrative makes pretty strong 
departures from the Saga of Eric the Red. It knows 
on the one hand more, on the other less ; above all, the 
same occurrences appear in quite different order and 
connexion . . . * Between both accounts runs the 
remarkable relationship that while clearly harmonious 
in the main features they are widely separated from 
one another in details. The use of the older narrative 
by the younger is accordingly excluded. 

The motive apparently suggested by Mr. Dieserud 
and those who agree with him for the tone adopted in 
the Flatey Book is the glorification of the family of 
Eric the Red. The introduction of a prior discoverer 
to Leif does not seem likely to conduce to such a result, 
and one feels that a member of Eric s family would 
hardly regard the story of Freydis with pride or 
pleasure. But let that pass. Those who adopt this 
position seem to be faced with a dilemma. No one 
outside Greenland had any interest in attempting such 
a task, while if as I myself believe (see next chapter, 
p. 139) this version comes in the main from a Green 
land source, it is far more likely that it represents an 



independent tradition than that compilers in so inacces 
sible a country had access to the version current in 
Iceland. For these reasons we need have no hesitation 
in accepting the independence of the Flatey version, 
and in concluding with Vigfusson that the correspond 
ence of these distinct versions throws great light on the 
vitality and faithfulness of tradition, and is a strong 
confirmation of the credibility in main points of a saga 
which is especially important for historic reasons . l 

Date of the Flatey Book. 

The date and circumstances of composition of the 
Flatey Book are known to us from the invaluable 
researches of Vigfusson, who transcribed the entire 
manuscript for publication. From this source we learn 
i that it was compiled for one John Haakonson, who 
Was born in 1350; the date of its commencement can 
therefore hardly have been earlier than some twenty 
years later (c. 1370). As originally planned it com 
menced with the mythical tale of Eric the Far-travelled, 
a fact which is plain from the words of the text, * He 
that wrote this book set this story first . It continues 
in the same hand to set down a long saga of Olaf 
Tryggvason, King of Norway, followed by the saga of 
King Olaf the Holy. At this point the first scribe, 
John Thordson, lays down his pen, and the book is 
carried on by one Magnus, terminating with some 
Annals, which it was intended to keep up to date by 
additions from time to time. When therefore Magnus 
found himself in possession of some additional matter, 
which it was thought desirable to incorporate in the 
volume, he added a few leaves at the beginning of the 

1 Prolegom. to Sturlunga, p. lix. 


work, leaving the blank pages at the end for the 
continuation of the Annals. Towards the end of the 
newly incorporated matter comes the statement that it 
\ was written in the year 1387. Magnus then added a 
title-page with a list of the contents, and continued to 
add to the Annals from time to time till 1394. The 
story of the Wineland voyages given in the Flatey 
Book consists of two thaettir or episodes, interpolated 
after the manner of the time in the saga of Olaf 
Tryggvason, which is the second piece of literature 
included in the original volume. It follows therefore 
that, so far as we are concerned, the manuscript dates 
from some time after 1370.. when the owner came to 
man s estate, and before 1387. Considering the time 
which must have been occupied in writing a book of 
such gigantic proportions, we may fairly ascribe the 
Wineland parts of the book to a date considerably 
earlier than the year last mentioned. 

The manuscript at present extant is therefore of a 
later date than that of H auk s Book. In admitting 
this we should, I think, for the reasons given earlier, 
be chary of attaching too much importance to the fact. 
Evidence is not wanting that the sources followed com 
pare favourably in age with the rival version. Two 
such proofs are mentioned by Reeves, though only one 
of these seems to me of real importance. This is the 
fact that, unlike the rival version, the Flatey Book 
refers to Bishop Brand without the distinguishing title 
1 the first , which would in all probability have been 
added by anyone composing the archetype used by 
John Thordson at a date subsequent to the second 
Bishop s ordination. The other point mentioned by 
Reeves is the reference to Eric s landfall in Greenland 


by its original name of Midjokul, as well as by the later 
designation of Blaserk, which latter is given alone in 
Hauk s version. A reference to the Landnamabok, 
however, shows that both names are there preserved, 
and as the part of both versions where the name occurs 
is obviously founded on Landnama, the omission of a 
word of the matter copied by Hauk appears to me 
devoid of significance. 

Turning to the contents of the rival productions of 
Hauk and the Flatey Book, though the two stories are 
obviously the same, we are at once confronted by certain 
striking dissimilarities. Bjarni Herjulfson and his 
adventure are recorded in the Flatey Book, and no 
where else in literature. Leifs voyage is represented 
by the same version alone as being deliberately under 
taken as a result of Bjarni s discoveries; elsewhere it is 
accidental, an episode of a different voyage. A separate 
voyage of Thorvald Ericson, terminating in his death, 
is detailed in the same account, whereas in the Saga of 
Eric the Red no such person is mentioned at all till 
the^episode of his death, and in Hauk s Book and the 
companion manuscript he is represented as sailing and 
meeting his death under the auspices of Karlsefni s 
expedition. Finally, after Karlsefni s return, we have 
in the Flatey Book alone the story of Freydis s second 
visit to the newly discovered country. With these 
discrepancies, and the attitude of modern criticism 

i towards them, it will be necessary to deal in a separate 

\ chapter. 


THE earlier writers on the subject of the Wineland 
voyages based their theories very largely on the 
Flatey version, and indeed accepted its authority as 
in every way preferable to the alternative rendering of 
the story. Laing, for example, in his preface to the 
Heimskringla, laments the fact that any other document 
besides the Flatey Book should come into the discus 
sion at all : and Hauk s version is dismissed by a writer 
in the Cornhill Magazine for 1872 (vol. xxvi) as a 
later manuscript . . . full of the most marvellous im 
possibilities . In a slashing and sceptical paper on 
the subject in vol. VII of the Proceedings of the 
Royal Geographical Society, by R. G. Haliburton, the 
same view is emphasized. This writer had but little 
faith in any of the stories, but he treated the Flatey 
account as at all events preferable to that of the Saga 
of Eric the Red. 

Perhaps none of the writers cited above can be con 
sidered as of very high authority, but their attitude is 
typical of the older school of thought, and the Flatey 
Book has as great a critic as Vigfusson on its side. 
They are quoted to show how widely the opinions of 
students can vary. For since Gustav Storm in 1887 
published his Studier over Vinlandsreiserne *, his views, 
which have found very general acceptance and still 

1 Aarbog for Nordisk Oldkynd. og Hist. 1887. 

2376 H 


hold the field, have completely reversed the relative 
status of the different versions. To-day it is the Flatey 
Book which is criticized, and on all points where it 
joins issue with the rival version the evidence of the 
latter is preferred. With great deference to those 
whose learning has contributed to such a result, it 
seems to me that such criticism has gone a great deal 
too far. Let us endeavour impartially to consider the 
main points wherein there is variance, and thus form 
our own conclusion as to which story is the more 
correct. 1 

Bjarni Herjulf son. 

Herjulf, Bj ami s father, was undoubtedly a real 
person, whose name and pedigree occur in Landnama, 
and it appears to be historically established that he 
was one of Eric s companions when Greenland was 
colonized in A. D. 985 or 986. A well-known headland 
in Greenland was named after him, and in fact no one 
hitherto has ventured to question Herjulfs existence, 
or his emigration to Greenland. 

We start then from the certain fact that Herjulf, 
Bjarni s father, has sailed to Greenland about the 
summer of 986. If he had a sailor son, absent in 
Norway on a trading voyage, that son on his return to 
Iceland would almost certainly endeavour to rejoin his 
parent in the new colony. All the best available 
pilots are gone, neither Bjarni nor his crew have any 
clear knowledge of the seas they will have to traverse, 
and it is with a knowledge of their risk, clearly stated, 

1 Since this chapter was written, my attention has been called to 
W. Hovgaard s Voyages of the Norsemen to America (1915), in which 
the Flatey Book is defended. 


that they start sailing west in the direction of Green 
land, separated from them by a distance imperfectly 
known, and also, if there is the slightest deviation to 
the south of Cape Farewell, in the direction of America. 
To America we are accordingly informed that they 
came, driven thither by suitable winds and weather. 
From America, without landing, without any informa 
tion to impart as to these strange countries, they 
returned to Greenland, and Iceland saw no more of 
Bjarni thenceforward. As fiction, it is a pointless and 
barren narrative, whatever may be its historical interest 
to persons of a post-Columbian age. It was evidently 
disappointing to those who heard and to those who sub 
sequently wrote the story. So far from being treated 
as a hero, as Professor Fischer would have us believe, 
we are told that Bjarni received nothing but blame 
for his lack of enterprise and curiosity on the occasion 
which chance and unsuccessful navigation had thrown 
in his way. These were not circumstances favourable 
to the perpetuation of a story devoid of incident in 
itself and redounding in no way to the credit of the 
chief actor in it. It would not be surprising to find 
that even in Greenland Bjarni s adventure was not 
long remembered. The disappearance of the tale 
from Iceland is a fortiori immensely more probable. 
The interest of narrator and audience alike were in 
that country exceptionally domestic. It is the rarest 
possible exception to hear in Icelandic sagas of the 
exploits of anyone who had permanently left the 
country, and whose life never again threw him in 
contact with Icelanders. Bjarni, from the time he set 
sail from Eyrarbakki, was, short of a miracle, out 
of the story , as the Icelandic narrators would have 

H 2 


put it. That the popular account of the voyages 
of Karlsefni and his predecessors should contain no 
mention of Bjarni is in accordance with every proba 
bility. The alternative appears to me to violate 
everything that experience teaches us of the develop 
ment of tradition here and elsewhere. A person, 
possibly it is said fictitious, at best wholly devoid of 
interest for Icelandic audiences, is credited with an 
extremely featureless voyage, from which he derives 
no sort of kudos, the effect of which is if anything 
to some extent to impair the glory of the Icelander 
Karlsefni. Such inaccuracy as characterizes tradition 
has, it may be said with the utmost confidence, the 
effect of merging the exploits of the less well known 
with those of the more popular hero : the creation of 
a fictitious hero in addition to the real one is, I submit, 
the reverse of the normal process. 

Thus, the legends which grew up about Charlemagne 
endowed that hero with the achievements of earlier 
Prankish kings and chieftains, and in particular ab 
sorbed and confused with Charlemagne his ancestor, 
Charles Martel. The national traditions of centuries 
were annexed and grouped round Charlemagne and 
his circle. On a smaller scale, much the same sort of 
process can occasionally be traced in saga literature. 
For instance, the earlier versions of the Landnamabok 
mention a certain Helgi Thorbrandson, who sailed with 
Eric to Greenland, and was accordingly less known in 
Iceland than his brothers, who figure largely in the 
Eyrbyggja Saga. This saga, therefore, ignores Helgi, 
and does not mention him among the sons of Thorbrand 
of Alptafjord. Similarly later editions of Landnama 
substitute for Helgi s name that of his brother Snorri, 


who went out later to Greenland, and was better 
known in Iceland. The less-known figure disappears 
and his history becomes absorbed in that of the better- 
knowji character. Such is the normal and natural 
working of tradition. 

Prof. Gustav Storm, in his Studier over Vinlands- 
reiserne, makes a great point of the fact that though 
Bj ami s voyage is represented as taking place about 
A. D. 986 nothing was done in the nature of further 
exploration for a period of about sixteen years. I fail 
to see the force of this argument. It was not till 
about a century had elapsed from the time when 
Gunnbjorn, son of Ulf Kraka, sighted an unknown 
coast to the west of Iceland, that Eric the Red, having 
made his adopted country too hot to hold him, followed 
in his track to Greenland. The battered and storm- 
tossed remnant who successfully accomplished the 
emigration to Eric s new colony had little motive, in 
Bjarni s bald description of unattractive coasts sighted 
from shipboard, to induce them to tempt Providence 
again. Leif, Eric s son and the explorer of the future, 
was born in Iceland after the death of his grandfather, 
and was in all probability still a child. He is the only 
son of Eric mentioned in Landnamabok, which is 
concerned with the Icelandic pedigrees only. 

On coming of age, and accomplishing the remarkable 
voyage from Greenland to Norway, having next 
carried out the difficult task of converting his country 
men to Christianity, it was time for him to look about 
for fresh worlds to conquer. The old story was re 
called, the ship was manned, and the first real discovery 
and exploration of the new countries was effected, an 
exploit for which, in the FJatey Book as elsewhere, 


Leif receives the entire credit, just as his father, and 
not Gunnbjorn, is everywhere described as the dis 
coverer of Greenland. 

Leif s Voyage. 

Next it is said that whereas, in the Flatey version, 
Leifs discovery is represented as the result of an 
expedition deliberately equipped to investigate Bjarni s 
reports, it is uniformly described in every other account 
as an accidental episode of his return voyage from the 
court of Olaf Tryggvason in Norway. Here again it 
must be remembered that Leif was by this time a 
Greenlander, as to the exact details of whose exploits 
Iceland was likely to be imperfectly informed and but 
little interested. The main facts of his career might 
be known : that he was a son of Eric the Red, that he 
sailed to Norway and introduced Christianity to Green 
land, that he rescued a crew of shipwrecked persons 
more especially if, as related in the Flatey Book, one of 
these was the Icelandic heroine Gudrid that he dis 
covered somehow and at some time Wineland the 
Good, and thereby gave rise to Karlsefni s subsequent 
expedition. More exact knowledge was not necessary 
as a prelude to the story of the adventures of the 
Icelandic hero Karlsefni ; in fact, in so far as there is 
likely to have been any conscious interference with 
the truth, it may be observed that the less Leifs 
voyage was dwelt on the greater would be the credit 
attaching to the later explorer, in whom alone Icelanders 
were likely to be generally interested. Such a state 
of things was eminently calculated to produce the 
fusion by tradition of two voyages into one, which was 
likely to be more generally known for two obvious 


reasons. In the first place, Leifs voyage to Norway 
and his return with Olaf Tryggvason s mission to 
Greenland was an important fact in the history of that 
proselytizing king. In the second, it was of interest to 
the priests who became the historians both of Iceland 
and Norway. As I have urged already, merger rather 
than expansion is the normal trend of tradition. The 
man in the street at the present day might well be 
acquainted, for example, with an incident in the career 
of Captain Cook, without being able accurately to 
assign it to the correct voyage of the navigator, or 
indeed without being certain as to the exact number 
of the voyages for which he was distinguished. It is 
far more likely, in my opinion, that such a merger took 
place in Leifs story as usually summarized in Iceland 
than that an imaginary and distinct voyage should 
have been invented and described with much circum 
stance and detail. 

But, it is said, the Flatey Book s account stands 
alone, while that of Hauk, short as it is, is corroborated 
elsewhere, by a body of independent evidence. On 
examination, however, this body of evidence shrinks 
to the dimensions of a single passage, repeated in one 
context with unimportant verbal variations in a number 
of different manuscripts. 

The oldest extant version of this passage, that 
occurring in the Friis codex of the Book of the Kings 
of Norway, will be found included in the Appendix to 
our translation (p. 74). Another example, from the 
great Olaf Tryggvason Saga, may be usefully given 
here, for purposes of comparison : 

That same spring when Olaf the King sent Gizur 
and Hjalti to Iceland, as has already been written, 


he also sent Leif Ericson to Greenland, to preach 
Christianity there. The King got him a priest and 
other holy men, to baptize the people there and teach 
them the right faith. Leif went that summer to 
Greenland. He took at sea a ship s crew, who were 
then in misfortune, and lay on a completely broken 
wreck of a ship, and on that voyage he found Wine- 
land the Good, and came at the end of that summer 
to Greenland, and went home to Brattahlid to his 
father Eric. Men called him afterwards Leif the 
Lucky. But Eric his father said that the account was 
balanced, since Leif had preserved and given life to 
the men of the ship s crew, and had brought the 
hypocrite to Greenland, so he called the priest. 

A similar passage in the Heimskringla may also be 

Besides these we have also a shorter passage in 
the Kristni Saga, which has been preserved for us 
in Hauk s Book. This last, translated in the same 
baldly literal manner, may also be found in the 
Appendix of Supplementary Passages, p. 75 

Now the first thing noticeable about all these 
passages is that they occur in exactly the same con 
text, the history of King Olaf Tryggvason s missionary 
enterprises. We have further the authority of. Vig- 
fusson for saying that both the Kristni Saga and the 
Book of Kings, though in their present shape they 
have passed through the hands of various editors, 
were in their original form products of the pen of 
Ari the Learned. We have therefore in all these 
cases one author, one context, and substantially one 

And, setting aside for the moment the exact form 
of words used, we may fairly say that the essential 


meaning of these various passages is as follows : 
Olaf Tryggvason also brought about the conversion 
of Greenland. For this purpose he found an excellent 
agent, in Leif, the son of the founder of that colony, 
a man who attained distinction in many ways, for he 
not only introduced the faith into those benighted 
regions but he also earned the title of * Lucky by the 
discovery of Wineland, and a brave and sensational 
rescue of a crew of shipwrecked men. It will be 
observed that Leifs career is only relevant in this 
context in so far as it comes in contact with that of 
Olaf Tryggvason, with whom the writer is principally 
concerned, and all that it was necessary for him to 
know, and possibly all that he did know, was the fact 
that Leif was Olaf s missionary and that he had various 
other claims to distinction. The when or the how of 
these various adventures of Leif were altogether beside 
the point, and did not need to be closely investigated. 
In this way, without any blame attaching to the 
original chronicler, even if he was responsible for the 
present order of the words, a false idea of the circum 
stances of Leif s discovery may easily have been 
started in Iceland. 

Between the two * thaettir or episodes which make 
up our story as incorporated in the Flatey Book Saga 
of Olaf Tryggvason, the passage already quoted from 
other texts appears, slightly edited into conformity 
with the Wineland story of the book by the omission 
of any eference to that country (see Appendix of 
Supplementary Passages, p. 75). The editing is in 
complete, for the rescue of the crew remains, to be 
repeated under different circumstances later on ; but 
inasmuch as the whole passage is obviously derived 


from the same source as the others which have been 
mentioned, no point can legitimately be made of this 
other than that the scribes of the Flatey Book did 
not carry the interference with their sources very far, 
which on the whole only goes to indicate that the 
Wineland story as they copied it suffered no alteration 
in the process, a fact in favour of this version rather 
than otherwise. 

It also shows that the thaettir were drawn from an 
independent source. 

We may sum up the argument on this branch of the 
case as follows : 

1. Leif was a person who came within the range 
of Icelandic interest not because of his exploits in 
themselves, which rather concerned Greenland, but 
because they had a bearing on the history of an 
Icelandic hero, Karlsefni, and of a Norse king, Olaf 

2. For this purpose the precise circumstances and 
date of his Wineland voyage were quite irrelevant. 

3. The accounts therefore which appear of this 
voyage, both in H auk s account of Wineland and in the 
sagas of Olaf Tryggvason, are, as we should expect, 
extremely short and superficial. 

4. The account of Leif given in the Flatey Book, on 
the other hand, is extremely circumstantial and detailed 
and appears to have been written from a more intimate 
knowledge of the facts. 

5. The normal course of tradition is rather to blend 
many voyages into one than to expand one voyage, in 

(>ne and the same story, into many. 
One other point may be mentioned. 
Part at all events of the Flatey Book version is 


accepted by the majority of those who have studied 
the subject, especially the observation recorded of the 
length of the shortest day, which is indeed one of the 
most circumstantial points to be found in any of these 
stories. Now assuming this observation to be correctly 
attributed to Leif, and it is recorded of no one else, 
then it is plain that Leif must have wintered in the new 
country, and at the most southerly point in it to 
which he penetrated. The alternative accounts are 
one and all wholly inconsistent with any such idea. 
According to these, Wineland was discovered by Leif 
while endeavouring to return from Norway to Green 
land in the summer of the year 1000. In the first 
place, at least two of the texts giving this version 
of the story state distinctly, and the others imply, that 
he arrived in Greenland in the year in which he set 
sail. (Cf. Frissbok : He came in the autumn 
to Greenland , and the passage occurring in the body 
of the Flatey Book s Saga of Olaf Tryggvason : He 
came at the end of that summer to Greenland. ) 

But apart from these statements we may ask 
ourselves, is it likely that Leif would have passed the 
winter in Wineland, unless he came there on a definite 
voyage of exploration ? On the hypothesis of accident 
he had come, and knew he had come, a tremendous 
distance out of his way by the time he made land on 
the coast of America. Would he have had either the 
supplies or the inclination to stay the winter in the 
newly discovered land ? Supposing that as the 
Flatey Book tells us he arrived first at Helluland, 
why should he have sailed south across open sea from 
that point if his destination was Greenland? If he 
followed the coast he would arrive in the Gulf of 


St. Lawrence, and would come across nothing resem 
bling the Wineland of the story. 1 And it is incredible 
that he should have put directly to sea in the direction 
opposite to his objective and happened by chance upon 
the two more southerly lands . Again, if we suppose 
him to have gone through the experience recorded 
of Bjarni, is it not still more unlikely that he would 
have elected to pass the whole autumn and winter 
in the very first place at which he touched, without 
provisions and so very far from home ? Would he not 
at least have sailed for Greenland after a very cursory 
examination of the country, however much he might 
have contemplated returning thither on another 
occasion ? Even if we reject the circumstantial 
version of the Flatey Book altogether and attribute 
the observation of the sun to Karlsefni, of whom it is 
nowhere recorded, it seems to me that the delay 
necessary to collect the samples of local products 
mentioned in Eric s Saga and Hauk s Book is most 
unlikely to have taken place if the discovery of the 
country was accidental and the party desirous of 
returning to Greenland. For these reasons, therefore, 
in addition to those given above, it seems to me that 
we are justified in taking the Flatey version as 

Storm, in his Studier over Vinlandsreiserne, urges 
that it was more likely that Leif, returning from 
Norway to Greenland, should have been driven out of 
his course to America than that Bjarni should have 
tmet the same fate on the shorter journey from 

* * This was written before the appearance of Professor Steensby s 
monograph, which will be dealt with later (p. 237). This author 
brings his explorers into the Gulf of St. Lawrence, but I adhere 
to my opinion. 


Iceland. In the state of navigation at the time it is 
course by no means incredible that either captain 
should have missed his destination by the necessary 
margin. There were practically no limits to the 
possible deviation in those days. Thorstein, sailing to 
Wineland, is said to have been driven by contrary 
gales to the neighbourhood both of Iceland and 
Ireland, and whether this be true or no it clearly 
cannot have struck an Icelandic audience as at all 
improbable. It has however to be remembered that 
Leif, assuming the discovery to have been made on 
the voyage from Norway, was retracing a known 
course, and traversing a known distance ; and if we 
follow the only version which supplies information on 
the point, he, like Karlsefni, was carried first to 
Helluland, which seems to argue a direction of the 
wind which could not be very unfavourable for his 
projected destination, Greenland ; Bjarni, on the other 
hand, set out on a voyage of uncertain length across an 
unknown sea, and his landfall in America is stated 
to have been so far to the south as to point to really 
contrary winds. Subject to these remarks I do not 
think that there is much in the point, either one way 
or the other. 


The next difference to be noted is with regard to the 
fate of Thorvald Ericson. The Flatey Book assigns 
to him an independent voyage, and a reasonable 
death at the hands of the savages. The details of this 
voyage are given at length, and substantially in 
a natural and credible form. The other version 
of his death is clearly incredible, for it introduces the 


agency of a uniped , a fabulous creature, not unknown 
to classical legend. 

Hauk s story, moreover, makes Thorvald a companion 
of Karlsefni, not an independent explorer. It has 
further to be noticed that until the episode of his 
death it is not certain that the original wording of 
this text recognizes Thorvald Ericson at all. Up to 
the point of Karlsefni s expedition the only reference 
to Eric s family in either of the companion texts reads 
as follows : * At that time Eric had a wife named 
Thjodhild, and by her two sons, one called Thorstein 
and the other Leif : Thorvald, it will be observed, is 
not mentioned at all. In the list of those accompanying 
Karlsefni, the purer text of Eric s Saga again contains 
no reference to this son of the house. There was 
a man named Thorvald , it runs, who was a connexion 
by marriage of Eric the Red. Thorvald, the connexion 
by marriage, is obviously not Eric s son, but, as Hauk 
correctly so far amends the passage, a slip for 
Thorvard, who married Freydis, an illegitimate 
daughter of Eric the Red . Hauk then interpolates 
and Thorvald Ericson in conformity with the story 
of his death which is subsequently introduced. This, 
the uniped episode, seems to be later in origin than the 
main body of the saga. The melodramatic death- 
speech of Thorvald is borrowed almost verbatim from 
the death-scene of Thormod Kolbrunarskald, as given 
in the Heimskringla ; so that a Greenlander in 
Wineland is here represented as intelligently anticipat 
ing the utterance of an Icelander in Norway. Then 
again the uniped, as has already been pointed out, 
is a borrowed conception : it is not a creature typical 
of the normal superstitions of early Scandinavia. The 


passage, as will be seen on a reference to the text, 
where it has been omitted, is in no way necessary to 
the story, and the sense is not affected by its absence. 
It would seem therefore as if the author of the text on 
which Hauk s version is founded, having derived from 
another source an exaggerated and romanticized 
account of Thorvald s death in Wineland, interpolated 
it in the saga without taking the trouble to make his 
account of Eric s family or Karlsefni s companions tally 
with the final form of the story. 

Two of the arguments which I have already used 
apply with equal force to this part of the question. 
Thorstein, as the husband of Gudrid, who subsequently 
became by her marriage with Karlsefni an Icelandic 
heroine, was a person necessary to an Icelandic version 
of the story. So was Leif, because his voyage, 
however and whenever accomplished, was the reason 
of Karlsefni s subsequent exploration. But Thorvald 
was a person in no way interesting to Icelanders ; he 
had gone to Greenland with his father, probably 
as a child, and was * out of the story . The other 
point is the normal trend of tradition. The important 
voyage, to Icelanders, was Karlsefni s, and it was likely 
in the ordinary course, like Aaron s serpent, to swallow 
up all minor rivals, whose continued existence was not 
necessary to its own. The Flatey Book version of 
Thorvald s adventures and death appears to me there 
fore infinitely more satisfactory than the other, and the 
objections to it seem to have but little weight. 


All that has been said hitherto applies to the second 
voyage of Freydis. After Karlsefni s return to Iceland 


his interest in Greenland and in Wineland ceased, and 
with his own ceased naturally the interest of the 
normal Icelandic historian and audience. * And that is 
the end of this story , says the author of Eric the Red s 
Saga, as he lays down his pen, having got Karlsefni 
safe at home, and his Icelandic descendants duly 
chronicled. What happened in Greenland later on is 
no concern of his. But life in Greenland went on, and 
it cannot in any way be said to follow that nothing 
happened in the family of Eric because nothing has 
been recorded in a saga dealing mainly with a different 
person. Those who would attack the authenticity 
of this voyage must take other ground, and show from 
the story itself that it is inherently impossible. The 
task has no doubt been attempted, but it seems to me 
that the saga emerges successfully from the ordeal. 
The conduct of Freydis and her husband as described 
in the Flatey Book is entirely consistent with their 
characters as delineated in the rival version. I am 
wholly unable to follow the reasoning of Laing, who 
considers this incident in itself incredible, though 
others seem to share his view. The independence and 
power for evil possessed by an Icelandic wife of the 
saga period are well illustrated in the Njal Saga r where 
the wives of Njal and Gunnar respectively carry 
on a bloody vendetta with complete immunity to 
themselves, but at no inconsiderable expense to their 
reluctant but powerless husbands, who, though on 
terms of complete amity, are continually forced to pay 
each other compensation for the murder of members 
of their households perpetrated by third parties on 
the instigation of these women. 

Of course the interview between Freydis and 


Finnbogi cannot be authentic, as no witness was left 
but Freydis herself, whose version would naturally be 
different, and the details of the story may well have 
been worked up by a later hand. 

But consider the facts apart from this : Freydis, 
a woman everywhere represented as of masculine 
temper, is married to a wealthy nonentity named 
Thorvard. From the contemptuous vituperation 
which Freydis pours upon her panic-stricken com 
panions in the skraeling fight in H auk s Book we get 
a fine insight into her character. She and her husband 
sail to Wineland with Helgi and Finnbogi, whom she 
swindles and bullies at every turn. The crews of the 
two ships are soon not on speaking terms ; a very little 
more will lead to a violent encounter. The brothers 
have a much better ship than Freydis, and on this ship 
she, who has got her way in every other respect, has 
set her heart. She makes a fruitless attempt to 
bargain for the coveted vessel, as Ahab treated first 
for Naboth s vineyard. Her overtures repulsed, she 
returns in a rage to her miserable and helpless husband, 
to whom she represents the conduct of Helgi and 
Finnbogi as an insult only to be wiped out in blood. 
The henpecked Thorvard is screwed to the sticking- 
place, he turns out his men, between whom and the 
rival crew there is already a quarrel, smouldering 
under the cover of an armed neutrality. The camp of 
the brothers is attacked, and the men are assassinated. 
The women remain, damning witnesses of the outrage, 
whom nevertheless male chivalry would spare. Hand 
me an axe , says Freydis ( Infirm of purpose, give me / 
the daggers ). The coup is not to be ruined by 
humanitarian scruples : dead men (and women) tell no 


tales. The massacre is completed. Surely it is all 
consistent with our experience of women of this type 
in history and even in modern life. Man draws the line, 
he is ruled by convention, there are things no fellow 
can do . Woman is a law to herself, and as a result 
there are heights to which she climbs where no man s 
ideals will follow, and depths to which she falls from 
which men are fortunately protected. With men, 
treachery and cowardice go hand in hand ; in women 
a masculine bravery seems merely to kill their natural 
delicacy and horror of blood, they can be brave 
and yet sink to the lowest excesses of meanness 
and cruelty. Judith, Jezebel, Lady Macbeth how 
trave they are, and yet how disgracefully treacherous ! 
/It is of course a matter for individual judgement : the 
/touchstone for such a tale is not to be found among the 
/ canons of criticism. To me this dreadful story reads 
as one of the most natural, consistent, and human 

/ episodes in history ; and though of course such charac- 
/ terization is not beyond the powers of a brilliant 
writer of fiction, it seems to me far more reasonable to 
accept it as authentic history. Why should this awful 
libel disfigure the annals of the distinguished house of 
Eric the Red, if there were nothing in it ? . Who 
would dare to invent it, if it were not true ? 

I contend, then, that on main lines, where the two 
stories are in conflict, it is preferable throughout to 
adopt the version of the Flatey Book, and that the 
alleged discrepancies come to nothing more than this, 
that the natural development of tradition in Iceland 
led, to a great extent, to the ignoring of some elements 
in the story and the fusion of others in what, to 
Icelanders, were the more important episodes. Some 


slight additional support to the view which has been 
here put forward is supplied by Adam of Bremen s 
reference to Wineland, which has been referred to 
in another chapter. For he states that this country 
has been a multis repertam , that is to say, discovered / 
or explored by many. This, so far as it goes, is in 
favour of the Flatey Book, for a country visited on 
but two occasions, one of which was accidental, could 
hardly be so described. 

Even where the narratives are in closer agreement, 
the Flatey Book appears to me on the whole the more 
reliable version. 


Especially is this the case with the courses given in 
the narrative. According to the Saga of Eric the Red 
and H auk s Book, Karlsefni rarely sailed in any direction 
except south. Thus, Greenland to Helluland is south ; 
Helluland to Markland either south or south-east; 
Marklancl to Keelness south according to Hauk, 
the companion version being silent ; Straumsfjord 
to Hop, once more, south. Now, wherever we place 
the lands discovered in America, the situation really 
calls for a great deal more west than south for a large 
part of the voyage. In a statement which is only 
approximate, the bearing we need is south-west. This 
occurs nowhere in the synoptic versions. Now 
compare the Flatey Book. Bjarni s return is all north 
east ; the lands therefore lie, as they do in fact, on 
a south-westerly line. Leif sails south-west from 
Markland to Wineland, and it is implied that his course 
elsewhere corresponded with Bjarni s. This gives us 
at any rate good foundation for supposing the data in 

I 2 


. the Flatey Book to be the more authentic. At the very 
i least these statements go far to establish the entire 
independence of the Flatey version, and to demolish the 
\ suggestion already dealt with that this narrative is merely 
a perverted embroidery of hints contained in the other. 
It is astonishing to find that Storm and his school 
prefer the courses set out in the rival version, and 
seem to evince great difficulty in making anything 
of the Flatey Book s geography. They even say that 
the latter conveys to them the idea of a coast facing 
north or north-east. How this is arrived at it is 
difficult to see. When Bjarni turned in a north 
easterly direction to search for a way home, we are 
told that he left the land on the port side . This 
clearly indicates that the coast lay to the north of him 
and faced south, trending away to the north in a little 
while so as to disappear from sight. So again Thorvald 
from his base in Wineland can go east or west, but to 
reach the more northerly part of the country he has 
first to turn east. This conveys the same idea as 
Bj ami s voyage, a south -facing coast, turning to the 
north at its eastern extremity. True, there is a word 
in this voyage which seems to imply an easterly course 
after leaving Keelness; this will be discussed -later, 
but in any case, if it had to be rejected, it would 
not justify the views expressed by Storm and his 
followers as to the Flatey Book s geography as a whole. 

The Stranded Whale. 

I have incorporated the rival version of Karlsefni s 
voyage in the story as I have rendered it, as the 
differences are but small, and the version adopted 
is less condensed and therefore fuller of information. 


I will however give an instance to show that here also 
the Flatey version is the more likely to be accurate. 
Undoubtedly the oldest parts of the text of either 
authority are the verses ascribed to Thorhall the 
Hunter in the saga adopted by Hauk. These are 
admitted by the most exacting critics to bear all 
the indications of a date corresponding with their 
ascribed origin. Even Dr. Nansen allows their / 
genuineness. Now it will probably have struck 
the careful reader that the second of these two poems 
bears no sort of relation to its context. The verses, 
either expressly or by necessary implication, convey 
the following facts : 

1. They are the utterance of a person who is leaving 
the New World behind, to return to his own country. 

2. Those whom he is leaving behind him are at 

3. These people are satisfied with a diet of boiled 
whale, which the poet considers unattractive. 

The text, on the other hand, conveys a totally 
different set of facts : 

j. The verses are composed by a person who is 
proposing to coast northwards in search of Wineland. 

2. The explorers are at Straumsfjord, far to the 
south of Furdustrands, and the main body are pro 
posing to go even further away from that locality. (I 
do not, however, attach much importance to this dis 
crepancy, believing as I do that the name Furdustrands 
was applied broadly to a large district in which 
Straumsfjord may well have been included.) 

3. The one person who appeared pleased with the | 
whale, and indeed claimed the credit for its appearance, 
was the author of the poem. The rest were made ill 


by it, and on hearing of its supposed origin refused 
altogether to eat it. 

These differences are clearly quite irreconcilable, 
and, the poem being the more reliable authority, the 
version in the text at this point must be abandoned. 
As Storm says, the fact that the author has plainly 
misunderstood the verses quoted is in itself evidence 
of the greater age of the latter. But in the Flatey 
Book, though, the account being much condensed, no 
mention is made of Thorhall or his verses, the whale 
is given a perfectly natural origin, and is eaten without 
any contretemps by the whole body of the explorers. 
We may, however, reasonably assume that such fare 
would not be relished by a fastidious person, and might 
well provoke the utterance of the sentiments embodied 
in the old song. There is at all events no incon 
sistency between the text of the Flatey Book and the 

There are one or two minor discrepancies which must 
now be considered. Leif s visit to Norway is said in 
the Flatey Book to have taken place sixteen years 
after Eric s colonization of Greenland. This would 
date his arrival after Olafs death in September 1000. 
But Eric had explored Greenland with an eye to the 
colony three years before it was actually inaugurated, 
and if we take it that the date of the first visit is 
referred to as part of the same transaction this point 

Thori Eastman. 

In no other account in Icelandic literature do we 
find Gudrid mentioned as the widow or wife of Thori 
Eastman, i. e. the Norwegian, whom Leif rescued from 


the wreck. It is still not improbable that she was so. 
Gudrid apparently arrived in Greenland about the 
time that Leif was absent on his voyage of discovery, 
and Thori, from his remarks as reported in the Flatey 
Book, "seems to have been acquainted with Brattahlid 
before his shipwreck, which was not far from the coast 
of Greenland. Supposing him to have married Gudrid 
about this time, we are told that he died the same 
winter, and Gudrid would almost immediately be free 
to be married, as we are told she was, to Thorstein 
Ericson ; consequently when Karlsefni married her, 
which was the important incident in her career from 
the point of view of the saga genealogists, she would 
be, as all accounts make her, Thorstein s widow, and 
the brief episode of her marriage with the compara 
tively insignificant Thori would soon be forgo t ten, // ! 
particularly as Thori was a Norwegian, and therefore 
of no interest to Icelanders. 

Death of Eric the Red. 

A more important question arises in connexion with 
various conflicting statements as to the ultimate 
religious faith of Eric the Red, and the precise time of 
his death. On these points the Flatey Book is not 
quite consistent with itself, for in the body of the Olaf 
Tryggvason Saga, chap. 352, it states that Eric was 
converted. This passage, however, is evidently from 
a different source, and speaking broadly we have the 
statement in the Flatey Book that Eric died in the 
winter following Leifs return from Wineland, which 
would hardly give time for his admittedly slow con 
version to Christianity, while in H auk s version Eric 
lives on to the time of Karlsefni. The repeated 


statements in other authorities as to Eric s low opinion 
of the priest, whom he described as a humbug or 
hypocrite, give colour to the theory that he died 
unconverted. The priestly chronicler of his achieve 
ments, on the other hand, would doubtless favour any 
rumour of the final conversion of his hero. It would 
hardly do, if it could be avoided, to leave this pioneer 
of colonial enterprise in the hell which the belief of the 
period would inevitably assign to him if he refused to 
the end to abandon his old creed. 

I am inclined to think, on the whole, that the Flatey 
Book is correct in saying that Eric was dead when the 
later voyages took place. 

If we glance at the chronology we find that Eric, 
by 981 or 982 (date of first Greenland voyage), had been 
long enough in Iceland to have made many friends as 
well as enemies. Before he came to Iceland he was 
old enough to be implicated in homicide with his 
father. 1 He married, and one son was born before his 
three years exile from Iceland. The sons of Thord 
Gelli, brothers, that is, of Karlsefni s grandmother, were 
among his active enemies. The father of Gudrid, 
Thorbjorn Vifilson, was among his contemporaries, as 
was Herjulf, who had a grown-up son who had owned 
a ship for some years in 985-6. True, Snorri Godi, 
born 963, and the sons of Thorbrand of Alptafjord, were 
among those who participated, in his quarrels, but they 
must have been among his younger contemporaries. 

1 If the statement of the Fioamanna Saga can be relied on, Eric 
as a young man, already grown up, was with Haakon Jarl in Norway 
at the time when the latter took the kingdom , i. e. immediately after 
Harald GreyfeH s death (c. 970). The passage refers to Eric as an 
Icelander , but must almost necessarily relate to the period before 
Eric s emigration from Norway. 


In 985 or 986 Eric had an established position as 
a leader of men ; at the date of Leif s voyage he con 
sidered himself an old man. If we put his birth midway 
between that of Snorri Godi (963) and his father (938), 
we shall not then be far wrong. Eric, therefore, would 
be born about 950. 

Now Karlsefni s voyage, in spite of some state 
ments to the contrary in the sagas, cannot have taken 
place till about a quarter of a century after Leif s, 
whether we date the latter from A. D. 1000, following 
Hauk, or 1002, accepting the Flatey Book. This, 
though not generally recognized, is clear from the 
known dates of the descendants of Karlsefni s Wine- 
land-born son. Snorri s grandson, Bishop Thorlak, 
was born, as we find in the Annals, in 1085 ; Bishop 
Brand the first, Snorri s great-grandson, died in 1201. 
Brand s mother therefore, of the same generation as 
Thorlak, can hardly have been born so early as 1085. 
Putting the mean date of the birth of Snorri s children 
at thirty years before 1085, which is making a liberal 
allowance, we get the date 1055. Snorri therefore 
cannot have been born much before 1025. If the 
Flatey Book is correct, Gudrid was married in 1003, 
and she certainly was of a marriageable age before 
leaving Iceland, and was a widow when Karlsefni 
married her. Karlsefni s voyage and the birth of 
Snorri should accordingly be placed rather earlier than 
1025, say 1020. At this time Eric would be about 70 
years old, and, especially if he was ageing in 1002, it is 
most improbable that he survived so long amid the 
hardships of life in Greenland. 

Again, when King Olaf the Holy, about 1018, 
wished to get rid of the troublesome blind king Rorek, 


and commissioned Thorar Nefjolfson to take him to 
Greenland, it was Leif Ericson, and not his father, 
whom he designated as consignee. (Vide Heims- 
kringla, Saga of Olaf the Holy, c. 85.) 

Finally, it seems strange that Leif should not have 
accompanied Karlsefni on his voyage if there was 
nothing in particular for him to do in Greenland, 
whereas if the management of Brattahlid and the 
control of the colony had devolved on his shoulders by 
his father s death, the position is quite intelligible. 1 

There is accordingly abundant reason to conclude 
that on this point also the Flatey Book is right, and 
Hauk is wrong. 

Other small discrepancies which have not escaped 
the vigilance of commentators can be explained as 
clerical slips, and consequently do not go to the root 
of the matter. The alleged improbability of certain 
details in both narratives will fall to be discussed here 

It seems to me, however, that too much importance 
may easily be attached to the fruits of this sort of 
microscopic criticism. The broad fact that we have 
two quite independent versions telling to all intents 
and purposes the same story at any rate providing 
material for a substantially consistent and circum 
stantial history collated from both sources is much 
more important than the existence of any number of 
minor discrepancies. By placing ourselves as far as 
possible in the positions both of the actors and 
chroniclers of these adventures we are likely, I think, to 

1 According to the F6stbraedra Saga, when Thormod Kolbrunarskald 
visited Greenland about five years before his death at Stiklestad (1030) 
Eric s grandson, Thorkel Leifson, had succeeded to Brattahlid. 


get a fuller appreciation of the facts as they were and 
of the truth with which they have been related than if 
we pore with a too studious eye over every line and 
every .word, with a view, if it be possible, to establish 
an inevitable but trivial inconsistency. 

A Greenland Saga ? 

The reader who has carefully followed the argument 
so far will at this point probably be disposed to make 
some such observation as follows : You argue that the 


story is more likely to have lost the additional facts 
given in the Flatey Book than to have invented them 
by the natural operation of tradition. Well and good. 
You also point out, with a certain amount of plausi 
bility, that the probable state of interest and knowledge 
in Iceland was just such as to produce precisely those 
alterations and omissions from what you consider the 
true course of the story, which, according to you, have 
taken place in what we may call Hauk s version. You 
appear to forget, however, that both texts are Ice 
landic, and that this argument ought therefore to apply 
with equal force to the Flatey version, where the parts 
uninteresting to Icelanders are notwithstanding re 

My first answer to this would be that it is quite 
possible that actual facts might be retained in one 
version in Iceland, even though not of great interest 
to the people of that country, but it is highly improb 
able that an Icelandic chronicler would be at the pains 
to supply by invention precisely those points in which 
his audience would feel the least concern. 

My own private conviction, however, is that the 
Flatey version is in the main drawn from a Greenland 


source. Here we are embarking* upon conjecture, 
a conjecture, by the way, which has been made before, 
but it may be interesting shortly to consider the 
grounds upon which such a theory is based. 

It is in the first place improbable that in the narrow, 
confines of Iceland two quite independent versions of 
the same story should exist side by side. The original 
story-tellers in this country were peripatetic, there was 
a close intercourse between families residing in different 
parts of the island, and it would be strange if the 
tradition of one district had remained unaffected by 
that of another. But the point most universally 
admitted with regard to these two versions is that, 
except for certain introductory and genealogical points 
derived from a common source, the Landndmabok, 
while on the whole the facts correspond, the stories are 
obviously independent. 

This curious circumstance is at once explained if we 
suppose the historian of the Flatey Book to have had 
access to a saga composed in Greenland. 

Next, it is a marked and unique characteristic of the 
Flatey manuscript considered as a whole that the 
library from which it was derived was evidently rich in 
literature treating of the Scandinavian colonies which 
existed outside the confines of Iceland. This feature 
has been noticed by Vigfusson in his preface to the 
Orkney Saga in the Rolls Series (p. xxxii). Its 
pages , he writes of the Flatey Book, * preserve more 
than half of all we know of the older history of the 
Orkneys, the Faroes, Greenland, and Vineland 
(America). Indeed John Haconson and his two 
scribes seem for some reason, now unknown, to have 
paid particular attention to gathering up every scrap 


relating to these neighbour-lands of Outer, or Colonial, 
Scandinavia/ It is therefore precisely in such a work 
as the Flatey Book that we might expect to find 
incorporated a saga derived from an outlandish source 
such as I have suggested. We know, too, that the 
practice of saga-telling went on in the new colony as in 
the old, as indeed was a priori probable. In the Saga 
of Eric the Red such a form of entertainment is 
expressly mentioned as a means whereby the nights 
of the Arctic winter were enlivened during the visit of 
Karlsefni to Brattahlid. The stock-in-trade of these 
Greenland story-tellers must inevitably have included 
a detailed account of the founder of the colony, thus 
supplying a rival Eric s Saga such as I have argued 
(supra, p. 1 08) that the Flatey Book is referring to in 
the passage where Eric s Saga* is mentioned. Now, 
on turning to internal evidence, we shall find that 
corroboration of the theory advanced is by no means 
wanting. Not only does the Flatey Book, as has been 
remarked already, supply precisely those episodes in 
which Greenland rather than Iceland would be 
interested, e. g. Bj ami s voyage, the circumstances, 
date, and details of Leifs, and the full description of 
Eric s family, but conversely, where Greenland interest 
would naturally cease, the Flatey Book is far less rich 
in detail than its rivals. Take, for example, the 
case of Gudrid. To Icelanders this lady was a most 
important character, the ancestress of many distin 
guished men. To Greenlanders she was a girl who 
paid a temporary visit to the colony, and was for a few 
months the wife of a son of the house of Brattahlid 
who met with an early death, before the promise of 
his youth was fulfilled. She then married the Icelander, 


Karlsefni, and disappeared from their ken. Conse 
quently, though the Icelandic scribe of the Flatey 
Book has been able to supply some facts about her 
descendants in the concluding paragraphs of the 
story, we find an extraordinary lack of information on 
the subject of Gudrid in this version as compared with 
the other. 

In the Flatey Book she is subordinate in importance 
to the truculent Freydis and her henpecked husband. 
Besides the principal adventures of this couple we are 
given a summary of their characters, the mercenary 
nature of their union, and the exact place of their 
abode, which is described in a phrase of more interest, 
one would think, to a Greenland than an Icelandic 
audience, as Garda, where the cathedral is now . Of 
Gudrid s origin we are told nothing. She appears 
suddenly in the Flatey Book as the wife of the Norse 
man Thori, who was rescued at sea by Leif. Of this 
marriage, which is only recorded in this one source, 
I have spoken already. Whether it is to be accepted 
as a fact or no is not for the moment material, the 
point is that Gudrid comes abruptly into the story as 
a person whose previous history is of no importance. 
In the rival versions she is the principal character, who 
holds the stage from start to finish. The saga opens 
with a passage otherwise irrelevant explaining the 
origin of her family in Iceland, in the days of her 
alleged grandfather, Vifil. Next, after Eric the Red 
has migrated to Greenland, we have another interlude 
devoted to explaining the reasons which brought about 
her emigration with her father to the new colony, 
followed by a description of the sibyl s stance in which 
Gudrid played so important a part, which is so vivid 


and real as to give rise to the suspicion that it may 
have been derived from the description of Gudrid 

Now the usually accepted explanation of the Flatey 
version is that, being composed in the north of Iceland, 
in close proximity to the religious establishment associ 
ated with Gudrid s piety, and in the district where I 
Karlsefni s family were settled, the story is derived 
from the reports of the Icelandic explorer. And 
indeed, the final paragraphs, wherein the descendants 
of the pair are duly recorded, may well be ascribed to 
a local origin. That some combination of different 
sources takes place at this point is indicated by the fact 
that the statement many men are descended from 
Karlsefni occurs twice over in separate places towards 
the end of the saga. It reads, in fact, exactly as if the 
final passage beginning * and when Karlsefni was 
dead was an addition from local sources. But is it 
not in the last degree surprising, if the accepted theory 
be true of the whole story, that here alone we should 
be imperfectly informed as to the career and descent 
of the local heroine ? 

Again, if this story is the result of the full report 
which we are told that Karlsefni left of his adventures, 
is it not remarkable that in the description of this 
voyage alone the Flatey Book gives place, in point of 
circumstance and detail, to the rival account ? Not 
a word is said of the Icelandic co-adventurers, Bjarni 
Grimolfson and Snorri ; nay, we are given to under 
stand that Karlsefni had come from Norway, without 
stopping on his way in Iceland to join forces with any 
such companions. And the whole story of the voyage, \ 
unlike the other expeditions detailed in the Flatey 


Book, is, when compared with the alternative account, 
quite sketchy and meagre. It may well be accurate 
as far as it goes, for Karlsefni evidently returned to 
Greenland before proceeding home, and many of his 
companions were Greenlanders, but it is, as one would 
expect of a Greenland version of this story, compressed 
into the briefest summary. 

If the account of the Wineland voyages to be found 
in the Flatey Book originated in Greenland, it is 
evident that it was far less exposed than the Icelandic 
sagas to literary and other influences derived from 
communication with other countries. Intercourse 
between Greenland and the outside world must always 
have been rare, and the effect of the edict issued by the 
King of Norway in 1294 creating trade relations with 
Greenland a crown monopoly led very speedily to the 
decline and disappearance of the colony, which appears 
to have been completed about A. D. 1400. In particular, 
the edict cut off communication from Iceland. Only 
in one respect should we expect to find a Greenland 
saga affected by modern developments. And this is 
just what we actually do find in the present case. 

Direct Voyages to Norway. 

As Dr. Storm has pointed out in the preface to his 
excellent edition of the Saga of Eric the Red, the 
Flatey narrative contains an extraordinary number 
of direct voyages between Greenland and Norway. 
Apart from Bjarni Herjulfson, there is first Karlsefni s 
arrival, which is here stated to be from Norway ; there 
is his return, direct to Norway, where he sells his 
* hiisa-snotra to a German from Bremen ; and finally 


there is the arrival of the brothers, Helgi and Finnbogi, 
from Norway, in the story of Freydis s expedition. 

Now Dr. Storm sees in all this merely an additional 
count in his indictment against the Flatey Book. This 
talk of direct voyages between Greenland and Norway 
smacks of the days of the royal monopoly ; Germans 
from Bremen suggest a date subsequent to the establish 
ment of the Hanseatic League in Bergen. I think these 
anachronisms are established with some degree of cer 
tainty ; but it also occurs to me that the mistake is more 
suggestive of a Greenland than an Icelandic source. It 
is difficult to suppose that the infrequent ships which 
sailed to Greenland under the royal monopoly in the 
thirteenth and fourteenth centuries did not in fact call 
at Iceland, which lay directly in their track. If they did 
so, they would not suggest to an Icelander the idea of 
direct voyages between Norway and Greenland ; if they 
did not, they would not be present to the Icelandic mind 
at all. To a Greenlander of about the period of the 
Flatey Book s composition, or even earlier, any ship 
which arrived off Greenland would, on the other hand, 
be -a ship from Norway ; i.e. a ship bringing his 
necessary supplies from the only available source. 
And, as the original sagas handed down to him would 
hardly be concerned very much with the origin or 
destination of the ships which came to Greenland, the 
error of introducing Norway might easily creep in. 

So too with the episode of the Bremen merchant. It 
smacks of the fourteenth century, and it is obvious that 
the doings of Karlsefni after leaving Greenland would 
not be accurately known to an inhabitant of that 
country. But it seems not improbable that the Green- 
landers, being without timber, continued to visit 

2376 K 


the new lands to obtain such commodities, especially 
1 for use in ship-building, and indeed the Icelandic 
Annals for 1347 contain an allusion to a ship coming 
from Markland. It must be remembered that mosur 
wood is not elsewhere specifically mentioned in the 
Flatey Book account, which makes it probable that 
this passage is from a different source from the main 
narrative. But, at a later date, some anonymous 
Greenlander may well have sold a * hiisa-snotra , which 
appears to have been something connected with a ship, 
to a German at Bergen or elsewhere, and, in conformity 
with the tendency to which allusion has been made of 
attributing the actions of lesser-known characters 
to those more distinguished, the transaction may easily 
have come to be associated with Karlsefni, as the 
principal hero of the Wineland tradition, and the only 
one who after his return left the coasts of Greenland. 

All this points to Greenland as the country where 
the Flatey Book version of the story originated, and if 
this be so it not only accounts for several inconsist 
encies in the rival versions, but renders it likely that 
the account here preserved escaped the contamination 
which affected the later Icelandic sagas, through the 
influence of foreign literature. 


IT has now, I think, been established that the Norse 
discovery of America is an historical fact, and that the 
broad lines of the story have a substantial claim to be 
regarded as history. While so much has been and 
must be generally admitted, there is still a considerable 
difference of opinion as to how far the details of any 
and which of the versions are to be treated as part of 
an authentic record, and how far, if at all, the saga has 
become contaminated with external and mythological 
influences. Some writers, such as Rafn and Horsford, 
have treated these records with a credulity to which 
no early work of history is probably entitled ; others, 
of whose views Dr. Nansen is perhaps the most 
distinguished exponent, consider the admissible element 
of truth to have been so overlaid with fiction and 
imported mythology that the details can no longer 
make any claim to be regarded as historical. It will 
therefore be seen , says the writer last referred to, that 
the whole narrative of the Wineland voyages is a 
mosaic of one feature after another gathered from 
East and West. * 

Between these two schools of opinion it is necessary 
for us to pick our way, and in doing so I propose to 
devote the largest part of my attention to the argu- 

1 In Northern Mists, vol. ii, pp. 20-21. 
K 2 

148 T H E S T O R I E S 

ments of Dr. Nansen, which set out most skilfully, and 
with a wealth of research which it would be difficult to 
equal, the point of view which is most directly opposed 
to my own. 

Admixture of the Supernatural. 

Of course in the writings of so primitive and 
superstitious an age, based upon oral traditions of an 
even earlier date, we cannot expect to find a standard 
of historical accuracy equal to that of the present day. 
The authors, however truthful in intention, had not 
reached a stage of enlightenment enabling them to 
winnow fact from myth, both elements appearing to 
them to be equally credible. As Livy candidly 
postulated in the case of Rome, some licence must be 
conceded to antiquity in the dressing-up of early history 
by an admixture of superstition with the facts it seeks 
to record. To suppose , says Dasent, in his admir 
able introduction to the Njal Saga, that a story told in 
the eleventh century, when phantoms, and ghosts, and 
wraiths were implicitly believed in, and when dreams 
and warnings and tokens were part of every man s 
creed, should be wanting in these marks of genuineness, 
is simply to require that one great proof of its truthful 
ness should be wanting/ In other words, one would 
be entitled to regard the authenticity of any history 
alleged to be early with great suspicion, if no traces of 
the supernatural were to be found in it. Such things 
are to be seen in contemporary chronicles of early 
times no less than in histories written long after the 
events described ; the evidence might not be sufficient 
to satisfy a member of the Psychical Research Society, 
but it was good enough for those who lived in primi- 

A S H I S T O R Y 149 

tive and credulous times. The ghosts and miracles of 
such history, not in Iceland alone but everywhere, are 
not conscious inventions on the part of the historian, 
and dp not really damage his credit. 

It will be observed, in the narratives here under 
consideration, that the great bulk of the supernatural 
happenings is confined to the part dealing with Green 
land, the part, that is, which is in the main most 
conclusively established. Greenland of course was 
intended to be a permanent colony, and consequently 
for some time communication, of a more or less inter 
mittent character, was maintained between that country 
and Scandinavia. As a further result of this protracted 
occupation of the country, traces were left which remain 
at the present time. Ruins of houses and churches have 
been discovered, together with the bones of horses, 
cattle, and other animals. Had the circumstances been 
different, had Greenland been merely the object of 
fleeting visits such as those of the explorers of Wine- 
land, it may well be doubted whether the scepticism 
with which some have been disposed to regard the 
alleged exploration of the latter would not have been 
extended to the former. We should have had our 
attention drawn to supernatural episodes such as that 
of the apparitions in Lysefjord (see Thorstein s voyage), 
the inclement climate of the locality and the inappro- 
priateness of the name Greenland would have been 
insisted on, and the mention of horses and cattle would 
not improbably have been regarded as incredible. But 
the successful colonization of Greenland is an historical 
fact, and its story is chronicled in precisely those sagas 
which are here under consideration with regard to 
Wineland. It is therefore prima facie unlikely that 


writings found to be historical so far as it is possible 
to test them, in one respect should suddenly develop 
a character mainly fictitious, as alleged by Dr. Nansen 
and others. 

Character of Early History. 

Still it must be admitted that the historians of these 
early times, in Iceland as elsewhere, were not so 
scientific in their methods as those of the present day. 
The word History still retained its derivative kinship 
with Story ; the Muse presiding over this branch of 
literature had not yet settled down in the humdrum 
manage of meticulous professors. Like the classical 
and scriptural historians, the Icelandic chroniclers 
considered themselves at liberty to clothe the dry 
bones of their material, and even to present in the 
lively form of dialogue speeches of which the substance 
only could have been known. If, for example, the 
saga-writer has to chronicle the discovery of wild 
grapes, it is quite natural for him to assume that a 
sailor who found the means of intoxication ready to his 
hand did not neglect his opportunities. This explains 
the conduct of the German, Tyrker, in the Flatey 
Book, a great stumbling-block to some commentators. 
In the same category comes Hauk s account of the 
incantations of Thorhall the Hunter ; it is an expansion 
of a stranded-whale episode from the hint given in 
Thorhall s verses, and a very careless and inconsistent 
one at that. Other absurdities can be explained in the 
same way, and the names of such places as Keelness 
may have suggested the conflicting stories told to 
account for them. 

Again, if the historian had ready to hand a 

A S H I STO R Y 151 

picturesque anecdote from a different source, but 
manifestly connected with the principal theme, which 
could be fitted into the main story, he would have little 
hesitation in using it, though the unscientific joinery 
would be often painfully evident. Hake and Hekja, for 
instance, whether or no they have an historical basis, 
are manifestly introduced in the wrong place, before 
any vines had really been discovered, and the limits 
of the inserted passage are made glaringly apparent 
by the fact that the last words of the preceding matter 
are substantially repeated immediately afterwards 
( gerftiz vagskorit lan$it . . . * er var$ fjar&skorit ). 
Such interpolations are frequently of great interest, as 
affording what really amounts to independent confirma 
tion of the story : they show it to have been widely 
discussed and accepted at an early date, but they 
hardly redound to the credit of the first amalgamating 

Dr. Nansens Position. 

A certain degree of caution is necessary, therefore, 
in the scientific investigation of this as of all early 
historical documents. But Dr. Nansen is not content 
with such reservations as these. He goes so far in 
the direction of scepticism that the reader wonders 
in the end that the frail remnants to which he clings 
are sufficient to hold this author to any belief in the 
Norse discovery of America. His arguments, if sound, 
play havoc with the very foundations of the story, and 
if he sits unmoved among the ruins it is fair to doubt 
if he will find many to share his attitude, or to trust to 
the tottering remains. It is advisable, therefore, to 
examine Dr. Nansen s arguments rather closely, and 


to see whether the records which we are investigating 
are really as unreliable as he has suggested. 

Minor Objections. 

It would take a disproportionate allowance of space 
to deal in detail with all the smaller and more 
incidental points in the argument. Some of them will 
be found noticed elsewhere in the present volume, and 
one or two may here be mentioned as typical. 
Dr. Nansen suggests, for example, that the statement 
in the Icelandic Annals for 1121 that Eric, Bishop of 
Greenland, went out to seek (leita) Wineland, shows 
that Wineland was at that date not a known but a 
legendary country, for leita can only apply to a search 
for that the existence of which is undetermined. For 
instances of a use of the word which entirely upset such 
an argument it is not necessary to look outside the 
sagas dealing with the present subject, where we find 
that Aud the Wealthy for at leita Islands (went to 
seek Iceland), at a time when her own brother was 
already settled there, and long after the foundation of 
the Icelandic colony. 

Again, Dr. Nansen asks us to see * an air of myth 
and invention in the numerous Thor-nimes 
Thorvald, Thorhall, Thorstein, Thorfin, &c. which are 
undoubtedly to be found in this story. To find, how 
ever, such names conferred on men born in heathendom 
seems to me to prove less than nothing, particularly 
when we find in the index of names to the Landnama- 
b6k no fewer than fourteen pages in double columns 
devoted to men and women whose names began with 

A S H I S T O R Y 153 

Occurrence of Number Three. 

Of perhaps greater importance is the resemblance 
to fairy-tale which Dr. Nansen seeks to establish from 
the frequent occurrence of the number three. l This 
feature is not conspicuous in the Flatey Book version, 
which gives us no fewer than six voyages Bjarni, Leif, 
Thorvald, Thorstein, Karlsefni, and Freydis while 
the distances between the lands are not given as equal 
in all cases. In the companion version it is true that the 
figure three plays or can be made to play a consider 
able part, yet it is doubtful if so much use can fairly be 
made of the point as Dr. Nansen argues. There are 
three voyages Leif s, Thorstein s, Karlsemi s ; but 
the fact that the second alone is unsuccessful robs the 
number of the significance which we should expect in 
fairy-tale. Karlsefni s expedition consists of three 
ships, but this is explained by the circumstance that 
two of these belonged to the visitors to Greenland, 
while one was manned by the local contingent. Each 
ship had two leaders not one or three and the crews 
totalled 1 60 men, so that the figure three is here only 
to be found by selection from other quite arbitrary 
numbers. That three countries are visited is only 
true if we take the nomenclature of the Flatey Book ; 
in the companion account we may rather say that five 
places are mentioned Helluland, Markland, Furdu- 
strands, Straumsfjord, and Hop. With regard to the 
number of days voyage between the different places 
visited, no emphasis is laid on the number three ; the 
figure recorded is two, and in some cases a long while. 
If it is said that two days voyage involves an arrival 

1 In Northern Mists, vol. i, p. 335. 


on the third day, then no use can fairly be made of the 
three days search for Thorhall on the island, who was 
found on the fourth day. Dr. Nansen draws attention 
to the fact that three meetings with skraelings are 
recorded, but this is only true of the skraelings at Hop ; 
it omits the five skraelings found sleeping by the sea, 
and those whose boys were captured in Markland. 
If the episode at Hop is to be treated by itself, it is not 
a fair argument to say that there were three casualties, 
for only two men were killed at this time, with four of 
the savages. If Thorvald s death at the hands of the 
uniped is to be included, it would be reasonable to take 
the total loss to the expedition from all causes, which 
. would comprise Thorhall the Hunter and his eight or 
nine companions, and Bjarni Grimolfson with about 
half his crew. Altogether the uniformity of fairy-tale 
seems conspicuously absent, and the mystic figure, 
appearing as it does with other numbers which Dr. 
Nansen ignores, is explicable on quite rational 

The Wild Grapes. 

Turning now to the broader issues of Dr. Nansen s 
argument, they may be summarized as follows.- The 
wild grapes and corn are rejected altogether, and 
traced to legends of the Insulae Fortunatae in Isidore 
Hispalensis and classical sources. Most of the other 
salient features of the narrative, the whale, the bird- 
island, and above all the skraelings, are treated as 
derived in the main from Irish legend. 

The alleged classical and Celtic influences it will be 
convenient to consider separately. 

I may state at the outset that I believe there is 


something in Dr. Nansen s argument from the unusual 
form of the name Vinland hit Go8a, which however in 
its complete form is hardly to be found in the text of 
the sagas. 

I think it quite possible that this is an Icelandic 
form of the classical Insulae Fortunatae, but I differ 
from the author under consideration in concluding, for 
my part, that the Norsemen, or those who recorded 
their achievements, identified the newly discovered 
country with these legendary islands, or considered 
that the name was appropriate, because of the 
commodities actually found in America. 

It seems to me that herein may have lain the great 
importance attached to the discovery of the grapes, &c., 
things of which Scandinavians had little knowledge and 
could make but little use. 

That wild grapes, at all events, were discovered 
I regard as indisputable. Before the introduction 
of Christian learning into Iceland and Greenland, 
which could hardly have been far advanced at the time 
of the actual voyages, it cannot be said that any 
knowledge of Isidore or the Insulae Fortunatae is 
likely to have existed in these countries. 

Now the verses of Thorhall the Hunter are admitted 
by all authorities to bear the marks of contemporary 
composition. And it cannot be disputed that the first 
of these verses contains an allusion to the discovery of 
the grape and is very strong evidence that information 
of this discovery had penetrated to Greenland at a date 
earlier than that of the voyage in which the author 
took part. It is hardly possible, in my opinion, to 
exaggerate the significance of a contemporary com 
position which says in effect I had been told before 


I started that I should find vines, but I have not done 
* JT so . The latter part of the verse is immaterial, for it 
may well have been the case, as indeed is stated in the 
saga, that the vine region had not at this stage been 
reached by the expedition ; the point is that such 
a region appears to have been discovered by some 
predecessor of Thorhall, who composed his verse at 
a period when knowledge of the Fortunate Islands can 
hardly have penetrated to the Icelandic or Greenland 
Colonies. It is moreover not without importance that 
the briefest accounts of Leif s voyage contain allusions 
to the discovery of a Wineland , showing that this 
was in fact the salient feature of the discovery in the 
minds of those who heard of it, even if the name was 
not conferred by the explorers themselves. 

Then too we have the evidence of Adam of Bremen, 
to which allusion has been made in the chapter on 
sources. Adam, indeed, is likely to have been well 
acquainted with the classical allusions to the Fortunate 
Isles, but the same can hardly be predicated of his 
informant King Svein of Denmark, and the Danes 
whose certa relatio is contrasted by this author, and as 
I think purposely contrasted, with the fabulosa opinio 
on which the existence of such a country had hitherto 
rested. Adam s testimony, dating from about 1070, 
may therefore be regarded as very strong and practi 
cally contemporary corroboration of the discovery of 
the vines alluded to in these sagas. 

Again, it is clear that by the time of Ari the Learned, 
who was born in 1067, the name Wineland had become 
definitely attached to a country discovered in the west 
by the Norse explorers, whose existence and position 
were well enough known to be understood in a casual 

A S H I S T O R Y 157 

allusion. It seems to me in the last degree improbable 
that, by the time Ari wrote, so large an accretion of 
legend should have collected round the story of the 
discovery as to account for the name containing an 
allusion to wine if grapes had not in fact been dis 
covered there. The style of Ari s writings, as indeed 
of all the earlier sagas, is the most independent and 
natural to be found in the whole of literature ; this is 
due to the absence in these times of almost all external 
influence. It is clear too that Ari was well qualified 
for the duties of an historian by a most discriminating 
judgement as to the merits of his sources of information ; 
he is constantly giving us the names and qualifications 
of the persons from whom his statements are derived, 
and their knowledge not infrequently goes back to the 
period now under consideration ; hence it is impossible 
to ignore the value of a mention of a land of vines or 
wine in the work of this early and conscientious 

But it is further to be observed that if the Norsemen 
discovered America and it is generally agreed that 
they did the commodities of which the sagas speak 
were in fact there, waiting to be discovered. Precisely 
the same two things wild grapes and cereals struck 
almost every one of the rediscoverers and later ex 
plorers of this continent. The coincidence of a mention 
of wild vines and corn in the mythical lands of classical 
writers is just as strong an argument against the truth 
fulness of these later explorers as of the Norsemen, 
yet no one doubts their word, corroborated as it is by 
the facts known to us at the present day. The whole 
force of Dr. Nansen s argument under this head rests 
upon this coincidence ; in fact, he summarizes it in these 


words : The resemblance between this description 
(Isidore s of the Fortunate Isles) and that of Wineland 
is so close that it cannot be explained away as for 
tuitous. l Yet the resemblance is just as close between 
the passage cited and many in the reports of later 
explorers, where it is quite certainly fortuitous. 

A few examples of such passages may here be given : 

Car tier. (Brion Island.) We found it full of goodly 
trees, meadows, fields of wild corn. 

(North Point, Prince Edward Island.) We landed 
there this day in four places to see the trees, which 
are wonderfully fair, &c., many others to us un 
known. The lands where there are no woods are very 
fair, and all so full of wild corn, like rye, that it seems 
to have been sown and cultivated there. 

(Baye de Chaleur.) Their land is more temperate 
in heat than the land of Spain and there is not here 
any little spot void of woods and made up of sand, 
which may not be full of wild grain, which has an ear 
like rye, and the kernel like oats. 

(St. Lawrence River.) On both sides of it we 
found the fairest and best lands to look at that it may 
be possible to behold full of the goodliest trees in the 
world, and so many vines loaded with grapes along the 
said river that it seems that they may rather have been 
planted there by the hand of man than otherwise : but 
because they are not cultivated nor pruned, the grapes 
are not so big and sweet as ours. 

Again, * Finest trees in the world : to wit, oaks, elms, 
&c., and, what are better, a great many vines, which 
had so great abundance of grapes that the crew came 
aboard all loaded down with them. 

1 In Northern Mists, vol. i, p. 346. 


Champlain. (Richmond Island.) Many vineyards 
bearing beautiful grapes in their season. 

(Cape Anne.) We found in this place a great many 
vines, ihe green grapes on which were a little larger 
than peas. 

(Gloucester Bay.) We saw some very fine grapes 
just ripe. 

Charles Leigh. * Concerning the nature and fruit- 
fulnesse of Brion s Island, Isle Blanche, and of Ramea, 
they do by nature yeeld exceeding plenty of wood, 
great store of wild corne like barley, &c. 

Hudson. (Near Cape Cod.) * They went on land, 
and found goodly grapes and rose-trees, and brought 
them aboard with them. 

Denys. (St. John s River.) There is found here 
also a great quantity of wild grapes. 

It may further be noticed that both Champlain and 
Cartier conferred on different places the name fie de 
Bacchus, from the circumstance that grapes were found 
there. This name, particularly as it is used of different 
localities, seems quite as much open to Dr. Nansen s 
attack as the Norsemen s Vinland hit Go5a. One can 
imagine the force with which the eminent explorer 
could point out the manifest connexion with classical 
sources, and the close resemblance between this 
nomenclature and that of the legendary islands from 
which he thinks the Norsemen drew their vines. If 
then the resemblance in these cases is fortuitous, as it 
clearly is, what becomes of Dr. Nansen s argument ? 

The Corn. 

It will be noticed that in the passages above cited 
not only the vine but the wild corn also makes its 


appearance. It is clear, therefore, that any argument 
based on analogy or resemblance to these features of 
the Fortunate Islands is quite inconclusive. Never 
theless the case for the vines is, it must be admitted, 
considerably stronger than that for the corn. In the 
first place, no mention of the latter commodity occurs 
in the Flatey version, if the reference to a wooden 
corn-barn be explicable on another hypothesis, as 
I have endeavoured to indicate in treating of Thor- 
vald s voyage. 

In the second place, most of the later explorers 
seem to have meant by wild corn something in the 
nature of lyme-grass (Arundo arenaria). But there is 
a difficulty in accepting this plant as the wild wheat 
of the Icelanders, since lyme-grass, under the name of 
* melur , was well known to this people ; a reference to 
the method employed in comparatively recent times in 
preparing flour from it will be found in Troll s Letters 
on Iceland at page 105. It is true that Professor 
Fernald of Boston, in his paper on the plants of 
Wineland, identifies not only the corn, but the vines 
and the mosur wood, with commodities known to the 
Norsemen in their own countries, but this has always 
seemed to me to add to the already insuperable 
difficulties in the way of accepting his theories, to 
which I shall have occasion to revert later on. 

All the same, I am inclined to think that something 
in the nature of lyme-grass may be indicated by the 
wild corn, and if so perhaps we may here trace to 
some extent the influence of the classical legends on 
which Dr. Nansen lays stress. One may imagine, 
without much straining of probability, that on hearing 
of the vines learned people would ask leading questions 


as to the existence of corn, and so the lyme-grass, 
hitherto considered, as we see from the Flatey Book, 
to be comparatively unimportant, might have re 
appeared under a new name. One can certainly 
imagine the schoolmaster, Adam of Bremen, in his 
cross-examination of the Danes from whom his inform 
ation was derived, on hearing of the vines, making 
some inquiry as to the existence of some sort of wild 
corn, and being quite truthfully told that it did 

However this may be, the identification of the wild 
corn will always be an insoluble problem. The older 
commentators on these sagas used to consider that 
maize was indicated, but this is not, properly speaking, 
a wild plant, and moreover bears singularly little 
resemblance to any European cereal. The later 
school mostly identifies the corn of the sagas with wild 
rice, but this is open to the objection that it is an 
aquatic plant. On the whole, therefore, while I think 
the discovery of the vine is indisputable, and was the 
cause rather than the effect of any trace of the 
influence of the legends of the Insulae Fortunatae to 
be met with in the sagas, I confess, in spite of the 
coincidence of the reports of later explorers, to regard 
ing the corn as a more difficult problem. 

In any case it seems to me that the absence of all 
mention of wild corn in the Flatey Book version has a 
most significant bearing on Dr. Nansen s argument. 
I For in practically all references to the Fortunate 
Islands the corn and the vines are so closely connected 
that a borrower from such sources could hardly take 
the one without the other. 

E.g. Horace, Epodes, xvi. 41 : 


k Beata 

petamus arva, divites et insulas ; 
reddit ubi Cererem tellus inarata quotannis, 
et imputata floret usque vinea ; 

and Isidore, Etymologiarum xiv. 6 : 

4 Fortuitis vitibus iuga collium vestiuntur ; ad 
herbarum vicem messis? 

The existence, therefore, of a circumstantial account 
of Wineland, which contains no mention of wild corn, 
makes any derivative connexion between the descrip 
tions of this country and the Insulae Fortunatae, apart 
from all other difficulties, exceedingly improbable. 

Celtic Legends. 

When we turn to the other features of the saga, we 
find Dr. Nansen displaying even greater resource and 
ingenuity in finding parallels in the folk-lore of other 
lands. The argument from analogy is proverbially 
untrustworthy, but it is at the same time rather 
difficult to combat effectively where, as in the present 
case, it is impossible to set out the full number of 
alleged resemblances with which Dr. Nansen s industry 
in research has provided him. Samples are open to 
the charge of unfair selection. I should doubt, for 
example, whether even Dr. Nansen himself, though he 
emphasizes the parallel with a marginal heading, can 
attach any real importance to such an instance as the 
following : 

* The great river that Brandan found in the Terra 
Repromissionis, and that ran through the middle of 
the island, may be compared to the stream that 
Karlsefni found at Hop in Wineland, which fell into a 


lake and thence into the sea. . . . But the river which 
divided the Terra Repromissionis . . . was evidently 
originally the river of death, Styx or Acheron in 
Greek mythology (Gjoll in Norse mythology). One 
might be tempted to suppose that, in the same way 
as the whole description of Wineland has been 
dechristianized from the Terra Repromissionis, the 
realistic, and therefore often rationalizing, Icelanders 
have transformed the river in the promised land, the 
ancient river of death, into the stream at Hop/ ] 

A striking parallel to this parallel leaps at once to 
the mind of the irreverent. * There is a river in 
Macedon, and there is also moreover a river at 
Monmouth : it is called Wye at Monmouth ; but it is 
out of my prains what is the name of the other river ; 
but tis all one, tis so like as my fingers is to my 
fingers, and there is salmons in both (Henry V, Act 
IV, sc. vii). 

In so far as there were salmons in both , it must 
I think be conceded by the impartial reader that 
Fluellen s analogy is more striking than Dr. Nansen s. 

Before considering further examples of the re 
semblances which Dr. Nansen has sought to establish, 
a few words may be said which are of general applica 
tion to the whole. As in the instance above cited, Dr. 
Nansen s analogies are practically all drawn from the 
mythical imramha or voyages which form a definite 
class in early Irish literature. This class merges 
gradually at a later period into vision literature, where 
a vision of Paradise takes the place of a voyage into 
the wonderlands of the unseen world. But in its 
earlier form, with which Dr. Nansen is mainly 

1 In Northern Mists, vol. i, p. 359. 
L 2 


concerned, the imramh took the form of a kind of 
Odyssey, in course of which the voyagers discovered 
many new and wonderful countries. It is manifest 
therefore that many elements must necessarily be 
present from which analogies with any voyage of 
discovery, however genuine, can be deduced. Unless, 
then, the similarities to be found are more striking than 
anything which can be explained from these necessary 
coincidences, we should, I submit, attach but little 
importance to them. We should remember also that 
the Icelander, however realistic or rational, is not 
likely to have been a discriminating borrower or to 
have rejected fabulous elements quite credible in a 
superstitious age. Thus we should expect, if extensive 
loans were taken from a literature exceptionally rich 
in the monstrous and marvellous, to find at any rate 
a good many definite instances where these character 
istics have been retained without much alteration. 

I have said that Irish literature was exceptionally 
rich in the monstrous and marvellous. This indeed 
is a characteristic insisted upon by Mr. W. B. Yeats 
in his admirable introduction to Lady Gregory s 
Cuchulain of Muirthemne as the great distinction 
between Celtic and Scandinavian writings, The 
Irish story-teller , he says, could not interest himself 
with an unbroken interest in the way men like himself 
burned a house or won wives no more wonderful than 
themselves. His mind constantly escaped out of daily 
circumstance, as a bough that has been held down by 
a weak hand suddenly straightens itself out. His 
imagination was always running off to Tir-nan-Oge, to 
the land of Promise, which is as near to the country- 
people of to-day as it was to Cuchulain and his com- 


panions. Just so/ says Dr. Nansen, and therefore 
when the Icelander borrowed he rationalized/ But 
had he the necessary critical discrimination to enable 
him to reject the fabulous ? Was he so free from 
superstitious beliefs as to be able to discredit the 
mythical ? By no means. Nothing is clearer than 
that he was highly superstitious, believing intensely in 
ghosts, and portents of all kinds : in fact, he believed 
in them so thoroughly that they almost ceased to be 
portentous from the matter-of-fact way in which he 
thought of them. For all he knew, the wildest flights 
of the Celtic imagination might be sober truth, and as 
truth he would have set them down if they had con 
cerned him. But if they were no part of the story he 
was telling, they could be left out of it. 

Now if we examine one of these Irish stories, we 
shall find the marvellous elements to be the very bones 
and sinews of the tale. Eliminate these and nothing 
is left which it would not be easy to parallel from the 
records of any voyage of discovery. There is nothing 
characteristic to which any resemblance can be traced, 
except these clearly mythical features. Take as an 
example the summary of Maelduin s voyage given on 
p. 336 of the first volume of Dr. Nansen s work. First 
we hear how * swarms of ants, as large as foals, came 
down to the beach and showed a desire to eat the 
crew and the boat. 

This land , says Dr. Nansen, is the parallel to 
Helluland, where there were a number of Arctic foxes/ 
Now there seems to me no reason why an Icelandic 
writer of the thirteenth century should have discredited 
the possibility of these Brobdingnagian ants. Yet he 
describes merely Arctic foxes, animals differing in every 


way about as widely from these ants as could well be 
imagined. They are not insects, they are not large, 
they are not dangerous or formidable. They are ani 
mals actually to be found in the northern parts of the 
American continent, and the locality where they are 
found is correctly described as a land of rocks, and not 
a beach at all. Is it credible that the one story, accu 
rate in every particular, could have been derived by 
the exercise of any amount of imagination from the 
other ? Set your children to rationalize Maelduin s 
story, and see if you will get the ants turned to foxes 
in any single case. 

Next we hear of a great lofty island with terraces 
around it and rows of trees on which there were many- 
large birds . This island , says Dr, Nansen, might 
correspond to the wooded Markland, with its many 
animals, where Karlsefni and his people killed a bear/ 
Then where is the island, or where are the terraces, 
or the loftiness, or the birds, none of them features, 
one would have thought, which the most rationalistic 
need have hesitated to retain ? We have, on the con 
trary, a low-lying land, apparently mainland, wooded 
indeed, but otherwise unlike in every single particular. 
Next we read of a sandy island, inhabited by a beast 
like a horse with dog s paws and claws. Next a flat 
island with marks of horses hoofs as large as a ship s 
sail, nutshells of marvellous size, and traces of human 
occupation. Next comes a lofty island with a great 
house sumptuously furnished, into which the waves of 
the sea threw salmon. Here Dr. Nansen might claim, 
with Fluellen, * salmons in both , but this has not usually 
been regarded as a convincing analogy. Lastly we 
are told of an island encompassed by a great cliff with 

A S H I STO R Y 167 

a single tree growing on it. A branch of this Maelduin 
caught, and held for three days while sailing by the 
island, at the end of which time there were three apples 
at the end of the branch. Not even grapes ! I am 
not sure, in spite of some ambiguous phrases, that in 
quoting this long passage Dr. Nansen wishes to em 
phasize many similarities beyond the recurrence of 
a certain number of periods of three days. But the 
description is convenient for my purposes as affording 
a characteristic example of the type of legend from 
which it is suggested that most of the features of the 
saga were derived. And I ask myself in vain where 
is the slightest trace to be found of one story in the 
other, except that both are voyages of discovery ? 

Correspondence with actual Facts. 

Or the case may be put thus : If the fauna and natural 
products described are merely the monstrosities of 
Celtic fiction taken with a grain of Icelandic salt, how 
comes it that they invariably correspond with the actual 
facts of the countries to which the earliest discoverers 
of America would most probably have come ? 

Indisputably this is the case until we come to 
Straumsfjord, though not much stress can be laid on 
the circumstance that descriptions so brief and general 
as those of Helluland and Markland happen to be 
accurate. The episode of the Irish runners appears 
indeed to have been inserted out of its proper order, 
and while not impossible may embody a distinct and 
less reliable tradition, and in the case of the whale 
incident the details given by Hauk may be rejected in 
favour of the simpler account given in the Flatey Book. 

But there seems no good reason to doubt that 


a stranded whale did actually provide food for the 
explorers, or to regard, as Dr. Nansen does, this 
incident as borrowed from St. Brendan. The second 
song of Thorhall the Hunter, generally admitted to be 
a contemporary production, and anyhow the oldest part 
of the existing story, makes a plain reference to such 
an episode when it speaks of boiling whales . Whales 
moreover figure extensively in the legends collected 
from the Algonquins and Micmac Indians of Nova 
Scotia and New England by C. G. Leland, while 
Douglas, in his Summary of the planting of the British 
North American Settlements (1760), refers to whales 
setting in along shore by Cape Cod, and records that 
the back of Long Island, where small whales affect the 
flats, was the first place of the English whale-fishery. 
To eat whale-meat, even without the pressure of hunger, 
was quite natural for an Icelander, for Troil writes in 
his Letters on Iceland (1780), with special reference to 
the reydur , the name applied to the whale in question 
in the Flatey Book, they are all considered very dainty 
food ; and the Icelanders say that the flesh has the 
taste of beef. With regard to the whale incident, 
therefore at any rate as recorded in the simpler 
version it may be said, first, that it appears to be 
corroborated by contemporary allusion, secondly that 
it was perfectly consistent with the local natural history, 
and lastly that there was at any rate no need for an 
Icelander to go to Ireland for stories of whales being 
used as food. Dr. Nansen s case accordingly breaks 
down in regard to the whale. The other salient feature 
mentioned in connexion with Straumsfjord is the bird- 
island. This Dr. Nansen dismisses as evidently an 
entirely Northern feature, brought in to decorate the 


tale, and brought in so infelicitously that they are made 
to find all this mass of eggs in the autumn . He 
further denies the existence of any breeding-grounds 
of importance even so far south as Nova Scotia. Now, 
in the" first place, the statement that the eggs were 
gathered in the autumn is not the saga-writer s but 
Dr. Nansen s. The expedition left Greenland accord 
ing to Hauk in spring, according to the companion 
text in summer. We may suppose therefore that the 
start was made not later than the beginning of May. 
No prolonged stay was made anywhere until Straums- 
fjord was reached. 

Even therefore if we reject all the distances recorded, 
and assume a rate of sailing as low as one tylft a day, 
(75 miles, or little over three knots), it is manifest that 
wherever we place Straumsfjord the explorers would 
have arrived there before the end of the nesting-season. 
And though they stayed in this place for the winter, 
when they suffered from great scarcity, no mention 
is made of egg-collecting till the following spring, after 
the first record of the discovery, immediately upon their 
arrival in Straumsfjord. 

Next, although the statement a man s feet could 
hardly come down between the eggs is at first sight 
startling, it is an easy task to find parallel passages 
among the later records of exploration in or about 
these latitudes. 

For example, Charles Leigh (in Hakluyfs Voyages) 
says of the Islands of Birds in the Gulf of St. Lawrence 
that they * are sandy red, but with the multitude of 
birds upon them they looke white. The birds sit there 
as thicke as stones lie in a paved street. 

The same locality is described in language almost 

170 T H E STO RI E S 

equally striking by Jacques Cartier : These Islands 
are as full of birds as a field is of grass, which nest 
within these islands. 

If Dr. Nansen objects that the islands here alluded 
to are not quite so far south as Nova Scotia, where 
he denies the existence of large breeding-places, we 
may refer him to Nicholas Denys, who writes of an 
island off this coast which has been identified with 
Sambro Island, near Halifax : 

I was once there with a boat, at the time when the 
birds make their nests. We found so great an abun 
dance of all the kinds I have named that all my crew 
and myself, having cut clubs for ourselves, killed so 
great a number, as well of young as of their fathers 
and mothers, which were very sluggish in rising from 
their nests, that we were unable to carry them all away. 
And aside from these the number of those which were 
spared and which rose into the air made a cloud so 
thick that the rays of the sun could scarcely penetrate 
through it/ 

Or again take Champlain (islands near Cape Sable, 
Nova Scotia) : 

Thence we went to Cormorant island,a league distant, 
so called from the infinite number of cormorants found 
there, of whose eggs we collected a cask full. .*. . At 
the two other islands there is such an abundance of 
birds of different sorts, that one could not imagine it, 
if he had not seen them/ 

Lastly we may turn to more modern times and still 
more southerly latitudes, and refer to the * hundreds of 
thousands of breeding sea-birds observed on and about 
Muskegat Island as lately as iSyo. 1 This after cen- 

1 See Steam s New England Bird Life, Part II, p. 362. 


turies of indiscriminate plunder by the hand of man 
may well lead us to accept as practically literal fact the 
birds nests of Straumsey, wherever we may feel dis 
posed to locate this island. In any case it would appear 
rash to dismiss this detail as a purely northern feature, 
and still more far-fetched to trace, as Dr. Nansen does, 
a possible connexion between these eggs and the red 
and white * scaltae which covered the anchorite s island 
in the kgend of St. Brendan. 1 

Among the remaining descriptions of the fauna of 
Wineland there does not appear to be much calling 
for any comment. As to the halibut or holy fish - 
taken in pits dug at the tide-mark, it seems to me most 
likely that the fish here alluded to was the American 
plaice or chicken halibut. Of these it is said in Goode s 
American Fishes (p. 316): Very shoal water seems 
to be particularly attractive, and they are often found 
at the water s edge, embedded in the sand, with only 
their eyes in view. Cf. the tract New English 
Canaan : 2 There are excellent plaice and easily taken. 
They (at flowing water) do almost come ashore, so that 
one may step but half a foot deep, and prick them up 
on the sands. 

In any case, all Dr. Nansen s researches have failed 
to provide him with a mythical source for this feature. 

We find, in short, wherever we look, in place of the 
wild absurdities of Irish legend, sober descriptions 
of places with their fauna and flora which are perfectly 
natural. What is more important, we do not find in 
these descriptions the sort of thing likely to occur to 
an Icelander or Greenlander, who was rationalizing 

1 In Northern Mists, vol. i, p. 345, and cf. p. 360. 

2 Force s Tracts, vol. ii, p. 61. 


a legend to make it fit the circumstances to which he 
was accustomed. Apart from the wine and corn, we 
have a temperate climate with woods and large trees, 
low shores and sandy beaches; except for the intro 
duction of glaciers into Helluland in the Flatey Book, 
which may be an embroidery from local sources to 
emphasize the desolate character of the landscape, we 
trace a manifest attempt throughout to describe condi 
tions, natural enough to us, but quite unlike anything 
characteristic of Iceland or Greenland. With regard 
to the vines in particular, one can see that the nature 
of these things was imperfectly understood by the saga- 
writers, so unlike were they to anything with which 
they were acquainted at home. The most conspicuous 
example of the description of something utterly foreign 
to Icelandic conceptions is, however, the account of the 
Skraelings or savages. These, however, are so impor 
tant an item in the consideration of the question that 
they must be allotted a chapter to themselves. 


THERE remains to be considered what is probably 
the most important feature of all, the information 
given in the sagas on the subject of the aborigines. 
In this connexion it is important to observe that at 
the time of the voyages themselves in all probability 
a savage tribe was a complete novelty to the Norse 
men. The only possible exceptions were the Eskimo 
of Greenland, of whom probably something was known 
by the time that the Wineland sagas were reduced to 
writing. In so far, then, as the descriptions of the 
Skrselings of Wineland are realistic, and differ materially 
from anything which can have been derived from 
Eskimo sources, these descriptions form probably the 
most convincing proof of the historical accuracy of 
these stories. The inquiry at this point falls therefore 
under three heads : possible or probable Eskimo in 
fluences, any traces which may be found of legendary 
or mythical influences, and characteristics indisputably 

Testimony of the Islendingabok. 

Now first of all it must be stated that we have no 
evidence of any meeting between the Norsemen and 
the Eskimo of Greenland until after the time of Ari 
the Learned. And indeed we have some evidence 
that no such meeting had up to this time taken place, 
while it is clear that the existence of Skrselings in 
Wineland had at this date been reported. In a previous 


chapter (p. 95) I have drawn attention to Ari s testi 
mony on the point, but in view of Dr. Nansen s 
comments upon it some further reference must now be 
made to these matters. 

In Ari s Islendingabok, in the passage relating to 
the colonization of Greenland (see Appendix and cf. 
p. 95), it is stated that dwellings and fragments of 
canoes had been discovered. And the writer goes on 
explicitly : and stone smith-work (weapons) such that 
from it (steinsmrSi J>at, es af J>vi) one may understand 
that there that kind of folk had passed (farit) who 
have settled in (bygt) Wineland, and the Greenlanders 
call Skrselings. One could hardly have a clearer state 
ment that the deduction as to the former presence of this 
people in Greenland was based on such traces as are here 
mentioned, and on nothing else. It seems prima facie 
most improbable that such guarded terms should be used 
if the Greenlanders had at this time actually met the 
Eskimo, and thus provided themselves with a much more 
conclusive proof of their existence. Moreover we have, 
besides the express terms used by Ari, the apparently in 
tentional contrast to which I have alluded elsewhere be 
tween the transitory and past movement of the Eskimo 
through the one country (farit) and the permanent 
residence of the savages in Wineland (bygt). And 
it would seem a legitimate and almost irresistible infer 
ence to draw from this passage that accounts of savages 
with canoes and stone weapons (cf. the hellustein 
which slew Thorbrand Snorrison in Wineland) were 
forthcoming at a time when the Norsemen had no 
other source but America from which the existence of 
such things could be known to them. Dr. Nansen 
however concludes that Ari s silence as to the Eskimo 


themselves was due to the fact that they were super 
natural beings of whom it was best to say nothing . 1 
It is rather difficult to see, if this were so, why Ari 
should have felt himself at liberty to mention the 
existence of these people in Wineland any more than 
in Greenland, or why he should have thought it any 
better to speak of the inferred existence of the Eskimo 
than to record their actual occurrence. Further, we 
may fairly demand where it is that Dr. Nansen finds 
in Icelandic literature any reluctance to mention 
supernatural beings, where these are believed to have 
existed. Altogether it appears to me an understate 
ment of the case to say that no meeting between the 
Norsemen and the Eskimo prior to the date of the 
Islendingabok seems at all probable. 

Dr. Nansen, however, writes (vol. ii, p. 77) : I am 
unable to read Ari s meaning in this way. He uses 
the present tense : " calla ", and what one " calls 
Skraelings " must presumably be a people one knows, 
and not one that one s ancestors had met with more 
than a hundred years ago. On this line of reasoning, 
if I speak of the man whom Carlyle calls the Sea- 
Green Incorruptible , I mean to imply that Robes 
pierre and Carlyle were contemporaries. Dr. Nansen 
further refers (loc. cit.) to the parallel passage in Ari, 
mentioning the Irish monks in Iceland * whom the Nor 
wegians call (calla) Papar . 2 From these words , he 
says, it might be concluded, with as much justification 

1 In Northern Mists, vol. ii, p. 75. 

2 There were then Christian men here, those whom the Norsemen 
call Papar, but they went away afterwards, because they would not 
live here with heathen men, and they left behind them Irish books and 
bells and croziers : from which it might be inferred that they were 

i;6 S K R^E L I N G S 

as from the statement about the traces of Skraelings, 
that the newcomers did not come in contact with the 
earlier people ; but in the latter case this is incredible, 
and moreover conflicts with Ari s own words. Let us 
examine this statement. In the first place it is clear 
from Ari s statement, they went away afterwards , that 
none were left at the time of writing, yet he still says, 
in conformity with normal grammatical usage, that the 
Norsemen call , i.e. speak of, them as Papar. It is 
obvious, therefore, from the very passage to which Dr. 
Nansen appeals, that the use of the present tense does 
not denote the contemporary presence of the Irish 
monks, and it need not therefore indicate in the other 
passage the presence of any Skraelings in Ari s time in 
the Greenland colony. 

In the second place, whereas in the Skraeling passage 
Ari only mentions traces from which their former 
presence could be inferred, he begins his reference to 
the Papar with the words, There were then Christians 
here, those whom the Norsemen call " Papar ", but they 
went away afterwards . . . and left behind , &c. This 
passage therefore cannot be taken as affording any 
support to Dr. Nansen s construction of the statement 
about the Skraelings. 

In another place (vol. ii, p. 16) Dr. Nansen suggests 
that the mention of traces of Skraeling occupation 
without recording a meeting with the men themselves 
has an uncanny significance, suggesting that the 
Skraelings are treated as trolls. It seems more natural 
on the whole to construe the passage as meaning 
what it says that the traces were there but not the 

While on this subject I may as well refer to an 

S K Ry L I N G S 177 

inaccuracy which appears in the note on page 77 of 
Dr. Nansen s second volume. He says there, * If it 
was the tradition of Karlsevne s encounter with the 
Skraelings that was referred to, then of course neither 
he nor the greater part of his men were Greenlanders, 
but Icelanders, so that it might equally well have been 
said that the Icelanders called them Skraelings. This 
is in direct conflict with the statement in the Saga of 
Eric the Red, ok varu J>ar flestir Groenlendskir menn 
a and the majority of those there on (th^ expedition) 
were Greenlanders. Of course the real reason why 
Ari says the Greenlanders call them Skraelings is 
that he is here citing, as he tells us, a J3reenland 
source, viz. the information obtained by his uncle, 
Thorkel Gellison, in Greenland. The argument, there 
fore, in Dr. Nanseh s note, like that of the text, falls 
to the ground. 

The Skrceling Canoes. 

Conceding, however, that some knowledge of the 
Eskimo may have prevailed at the time when our 
sagas assumed their present form, though the King s 
Mirror , composed about the middle of the thirteenth 
century, says nothing of these people in its detailed 
description of Greenland, the question next arises as 
to how far the writers can have been indebted to such 
knowledge for their realistic descriptions of the Wine- 
land savages. These Skrselings, as they are called, 
make their first appearance in the story during the 
exploration of Thorvald, as narrated in the Flatey 
Book. We are told how three canoes of skin (hu$- 
keipar) were observed, with three men sleeping beneath 
each. These canoes appear to have been so portable 

2376 M 


that one man, the only survivor of the ensuing 
slaughter, was enabled to escape with one. Now here 
at first sight we have an Eskimo characteristic, in the 
fact that the canoes are said to have been of skin. 
And indeed it may well be that the word used is 
simply the Greenlander s name for a kayak. This, 
however, is not certain, for it would need a close 
inspection of an Indian canoe, with its sewn skin of 
birch-bark, to enable a people unfamiliar with the use 
of this material in boat-building to distinguish between 
such a covering and a hide. I prefer not to lay stress, 
as some have done, on the fact that some Indian 
tribes used skin coverings for their canoes, for the 
natives of the latitudes with which we are concerned 
are represented in the earliest authorities as using 
birch-bark. Turning, however, from the name used to 
the thing described, it is quite clear that we here have 
neither kayaks nor umiaks, but Indian canoes. Three 
men could not possibly sleep under a kayak, which is 
a narrow craft covered in at all points but one, like a 
Rob Roy canoe or a racing outrigger. Nor could one 
man carry off an umiak, which is a large and clumsy 
boat, usually manned (if this is not a bull) by women. 
Both these forms of Eskimo boat were observed and 
accurately described in the contemporary account of 
Frobisher s second voyage (1577), given in Hakluyt, 
The greater sort wherein sixteen or twenty men 
may sit : the other boat is but for one man to sit and 
row in with one oar ; and doubtless at a much earlier 
time the Eskimo constructed their kayaks and umiaks 
in practically the same manner as at the present day. 
But an Indian canoe exactly and completely fulfils the 
conditions required in both respects. It is exceedingly 



light and portable, yet it may be, and frequently is, 
used as a shelter for its occupants. On this last point 
one may compare the observation of Jacques Cartier 
with regard to a tribe of Indians met with in the 
course" of his explorations. They have no other 
dwelling but their boats, which they turn upside down, 
and under them they lay themselves all along upon the 
bare ground/ (Hakluyt s translation.) Here, then, we 
have a feature which, with the possible exception of 
the word used for canoe, can only have been drawn 
from an actual meeting with the North American 
Indians, and of which the historical accuracy is indis 

The Skrceling Food. 

Another small point accurately observed and almost 
certainly pointing to direct contact with the American 
Indians is to be found in the passage relating to the 
sleeping Skraelings discovered and slain by Karlsefni s 
expedition. They had, we are told, cases containing 
animal marrow mixed with blood, a description which 
seems to refer to something in the nature of pemmican, 
or the moose-butter of which Denys speaks in his work 
on Nova Scotia, and Father Leclercq in his Relation of 
Gaspesia. This was a cake of hard grease extracted 
from the bones of the moose, and Denys tells us that 
it was this which they (the Indians) used as their 
entire provision for living when they went hunting . 

Personal Appearance. 

In the description of the personal appearance of the 
Skraelings there is little that is decisive, but much that 
is circumstantial. One of the two companion texts 
describes them as swarthy , the other as small . 

M 2 

i8o S K R /E L I N G S 

k Small sounds more like Eskimo than Indian, and 
may be a corruption of the original text based on 
knowledge derived from Greenland. Ugliness, un 
kempt hair, and broad cheeks would apply to many 
Indian tribes, e.g. Micmacs, as well as to Eskimo. 
Large eyes would seem at first sight to apply to 
neither, and Dr. Nansen therefore considers it to be 
a trait showing the introduction of troll ideas. Yet 
the eyes of Indians have struck many genuine observers 
as large ; for example, Lescarbot tells us that these 
features neantmoins ne sont petits, com me ceux des 
anciens Scythes, mais d une grandeur bien agreable . 
Carver, again (1779), says of the Indians, their eyes 
are large and black. Verezzano likewise speaks of 
1 large black eyes and a fixed expression . Another 
characteristic claimed by Nansen as evidence of the 
influence of the troll-idea is the beard which we are 
told was possessed by one of the Skraelings discovered 
in Markland : but this strikes me as telling rather the 
other way, for all trolls are bearded, and the Norse 
men were so commonly so as to be known to the 
Greenland Eskimo as Long-beards . The point 
therefore appears to have been recorded precisely 
because of its rarity among the Skraelings, and, while 
Indians for the most part take care to remove all hair 
from the face and body, the possibility of beards among 
this people is recognized by almost all writers on the 
subject (cf. Lescarbot, Schoolcraft, Carter, Catlin, &c.). 
It may be admitted, however, that the personal appear 
ance of the Skraelings is not a point from which any 
very clear inference can be drawn either one way or 
the other. 


The Waving Staves. 

The savages whose appearance is described in these 
ambiguous terms made their appearance in canoes on 
board "of which we are told certain objects were 
waved with a noise like threshing. The word used of 
these objects is variously written trjanum , trjom , 
and trjonum . It has been usually translated * staves 
or poles , but if trj6num be the correct reading it 
would seem doubtful whether something more in the 
nature of a totem-mask or movable figure-head is not 
indicated. For trjona means primarily a snout, and 
then a* detachable figure-head ; cf. the interesting 
passage in Landnama (TV. 7) referring to an old law 
whereby men were enjoined to remove their figure-heads 
before approaching Iceland, * and not to sail to land 
with gaping heads or open-mouthed snouts (trjonum) 
which might disturb the local spirits . It might on 
the one hand be argued that figure-heads are things 
more intimately connected with the idea of boats than 
staves are, but for that very reason a copyist would be 
more likely to convert trjanum into trjonum in the 
passage under consideration than to err in the opposite 

Accepting the meaning staves or poles , a recent 
writer 1 regards this as proof that the description is 
drawn from Eskimo, and Dr. Nansen makes a similar 
suggestion. To Mr. Gosling it is evident that this is 
an attempt to describe the motion of the double-bladed 
paddle used by the Eskimos, and it will be seen that 
an Eskimo, sitting in his kayak, facing the direction 
towards which he is paddling, when going east or 

1 W. G. Gosling, Labrador, p. 17. 


north, will appear to wave his paddle contrary to the 
motion of the sun in the heavens, but with it when 
travelling west or south . I must confess that this 
attempt at an explanation is very far from satisfying 
me. In the first place it seems to me most unlikely 
that the Norsemen could observe a large number of 
kayaks on three separate occasions without understand 
ing that the waving paddle was merely the means of 
propulsion. In the next place, though nothing explicit 
is stated as to the direction from which the first visitors 
arrived, the second and third visits, one peaceable and 
the other hostile one therefore in which the staves 
moved with the sun and the other in which they 
moved against it both came * from the south , so that 
the movement of the paddles would be the same in 
both cases. Again, a kayak paddle, having a blade 
at each end, does not move continuously in one 
direction, but from side to side, while, viewed broad 
side, the motion is that of a stave rotated forward. 

Finally, though perhaps of less importance, it may be 
pointed out that on one occasion the language used 
seems to imply more than one < trj6na > to each boat 
(var veift a hverju skipi trjanum). Having regard to 
the prevalence in America, as in most other countries, 
of the ceremonial use of solar and contra-solar motion 
(cf. Brinton s Myths of the New World], it seems to 
me a more probable explanation that we have here 
a genuine and interesting use of a sign correctly inter 
preted by the Norsemen, which further research into 
Indian customs and superstitions might succeed in 
elucidating. For my part, I am inclined to think that 
the trjona was a rattle-stick, such as is used by many 
Indian tribes. No other explanation hitherto suggested 

S K R & L I N G S 183 

takes into account the * noise like threshing which is 
a circumstantial part of the description. Rattles, being 
normally an accompaniment to dancing, would be 
likely to be swung with or against the sun according 
to the significance of the ceremony of which they were 
a part. 

With regard to the white and red shields used as 
answering signals by the Norsemen, of course there is 
no need to suppose that the Skrselings understood 
them, as Dr. Nansen does, observing that these 
features have an altogether European effect . Yet 
by a curious coincidence such signs would in fact have 
probably been intelligible to American Indians, for it 
is stated in Wood s Nat^tral History of Man that, * As 
among us, white and red are the signs of peace and 
war, and each leader carries with him two small flags, 
one of white bison s hide and the other of reddened 
leather. But we may be content to observe that the 
Norsemen would be likely to make their customary 
attempts at signalling regardless of the fact that their 
efforts might be unintelligible. 1 

Trading and Fighting. 

The fur-trading of the savages will recall to any 
student of the history of exploration numerous paral 
lels in the writing of Jacques Cartier and others. In 
particular one may claim as a genuine Indian charac 
teristic the eager acquisition of red cloth to bind round 
the head. Numerous parallels to this may be found 
in the records of later explorers ; in particular one may 

1 Cf. Frobisher s first voyage, in Hakluyt, And so with a white 
cloth brought one of their boates with their men along the shoare, 
rowing after our boate/ 


cite, from Juet s description of Hudson s third voyage 
(ed. Hakluyt Society, p. 60), what reads almost like a 
free translation of the saga : * They brought many 
beaver skinnes and other fine furres, which they would 
have changed for redde gownes. 

It does not appear likely that the seal-clad Eskimo 
of Greenland, who seem to have kept out of the way 
of the Norsemen as much as possible, could have 
contributed such a feature to the story. Even more 
certainly authentic is the account of the fights with the 
natives. Eskimo, as Dr. Nansen points out, were 
unused to war in Greenland, where indeed they had 
no other nation to fight, while of course warfare has 
always been a normal part of the Indian s existence. 
(It must be conceded, however, that Frobisher found 
the American Eskimo distinctly warlike and pugna 
cious.) It is clear that the Skraelings were formidable 
antagonists, since it was the fear of them which 
ultimately drove Karlsefni to withdraw from the 
country. Of their weapons only one seems to call for 
comment, the large ball, resembling a sheep s paunch 
and dark in colour, which was slung from a pole 
towards Karlsefni s force, making a terrible noise 
where it came down. Dr. Nansen has sought to 
parallel this incident from a number of disconnected 
sources, ranging from the use of catapults and even 
gunpowder in European warfare to the fiery mass 
thrown with tongs at St. Brendan s ship by the inhabi 
tants of the Smith s Island, and a similar incident 
in Mselduin s voyage, and through these last to the 
Cyclops in the Odyssey. 1 In all these suggested 
sources, however, the differences seem quite as striking 
1 See In Northern Mists, vol. ii, pp. 8-10. 

S K R ./E L I N G S 185 

as the resemblances. The pole is absent, the re 
semblance to a sheep s paunch seems remote, the 
missile in the case under consideration appears to have 
been neither fiery nor explosive, and altogether it is 
difficult to see that the incidents cited have more 
in common than the presence of a large and in some 
cases noisy missile. Bearing this in mind, let us see 
whether a resemblance far more striking is not to be 
found in a passage which Dr. Nansen passes by with a 
half-contemptuous footnote. The passage in question, 
which is to be found in Schoolcraft s Indian Tribes 
of the United States, vol. i, p. 85, appears to me of 
sufficient importance to be quoted in full. 

Algonquin tradition affirms that in ancient times, 
during the fierce wars which the Indians carried on, 
they constructed a very formidable instrument of attack, 
by sewing up a large boulder in a new skin. To this 
a long handle was tied. When the skin dried it became 
very tight round the stone, and after being painted 
with devices assumed the appearance and character 
of a solid globe upon a pole. This formidable 
instrument, to which the name of balista may be 
applied, is figured (Plate 15, fig. 2) from the description 
of an Algonquin chief. It was borne by several 
warriors who acted as balisteers. Plunged upon 
a boat or canoe it was capable of sinking it. Brought 
down among a group of men on a sudden it produced 
consternation and death. 

With all deference to Dr. Nansen, who regards the 
resemblance as distant , it seems to me that here we 
have the very thing described. We have first of all 
a weapon which Schoolcraft thinks of as a balista , 
and one which therefore could easily give rise to 
the statement that the Skraelings had valslongur , i.e. 


war-slings or catapults. We have the pole on which 
it was raised, we have several men to sling it, we have 
in particular the resemblance to a sheep s paunch 
accounted for by the fact that it was covered with 
a stretched skin. In fact, to reject an explanation 
of this passage, which fits every single fact recorded, 
in favour of a suggested resemblance to an explosive 
because it made a noise when falling, or to fiery masses 
hurled at a ship because these, too, are large missiles, 
seems to me to border on perversity. But the reader 
will judge for himself whether it is necessary to impute 
to the saga writer here any borrowing from mythical 
sources, or whether the description of this weapon is 
not in itself a very strong instance of the substantial 
historical accuracy of the story. 

Mr. Babcock, indeed, 1 seems to me to have been 
unnecessarily puzzled by this weapon. He seems to 
regard the thing described by Schoolcraft as a club , 
whereas that author, by conferring on the implement 
the name balista , distinctly suggests that the stone was 
discharged as a missile. He also searches, not very 
conclusively, for evidence that the Indians in these 
latitudes used slings ; but it is pretty clear that the 
remark about valslongur (war-slings) has reference 
exclusively to this weapon, the description of which 
immediately follows. So at any rate I read the passage 
(q. v., page 62). 

Of the Skrselings, then, who are said to have been 
seen in Wineland, we may say that the description 
contains practically no statement which might not be 
truly made of American Indians. It contains, moreover, 
points, such as the canoes under which three men slept 

1 Norse Visits to North America, p. 157. 


and the balista above referred to, which can hardly be 
due to any other source but direct observation of the 
American natives. Possibly derived from a knowledge 
of the.Greenland Eskimo comes the word * huSkeipur , 
used for a canoe, and, as some have thought, the 
incident of the waving poles on the boats, though the 
latter strikes me as a quite unjustifiable inference. The 
description of the personal appearance of the natives 
will suit either Eskimo or Indian. On the whole, 
however, we may say with confidence that we have 
here a description of savages so realistic as to point 
to direct and careful observation. In support of Dr. 
Nansen s claim that the tale is mainly a potpourri 
of borrowed folklore we have really nothing but the 
double who appeared to Gudrid in the Flatey Book 
version, the belated warning of the Skraeling attack 
which came to Thorvald, and the uniped which in one 
version is said to have caused the death of this son 
of Eric the Red. Of these three incidents two are 
typically Scandinavian and no more than we must 
expect in the reports of an unscientific age. Did not 
even Hudson have his mermaid ? The uniped inci 
dent shows traces of importation from some separate 
and later legend, e.g. the dying speech of Thorvald is 
clearly plagiarized from that of Thormod Kolbrunar- 
skald at Stiklestad. And the story, as I have 
endeavoured to show, can quite well do without it. 
When these fabulous elements are admitted we may 
still ask in vain for a single clear instance of the 
adoption or adaptation of Celtic legend with its 
continuous insistence on the supernatural ; of the source, 
that is, which Dr. Nansen claims as the chief con 
tributor to the saga as we have it. 

1 88 S K R A* L I N G S 

The Markland Skr tilings. 

There remains to be considered the episode of the 
savages captured in Markland on the return voyage. 
With the circumstance that one of the Skraelings 
captured on this occasion is said to have been bearded 
I have dealt already. The statement that those who 
escaped disappeared into the ground appears to me to 
mean no more than that, like good stalkers, they 
contrived to take cover and creep away unseen. 
There is therefore no clearer evidence of legendary 
influence in this case than in the rest of the story. 
The rest of what is reported is hearsay derived from 
the captives themselves, after they had possibly not 
very effectually been taught to speak Icelandic. 
I therefore agree with Dr. Nansen that it is hopeless 
to attempt, as some have done (notably Mr. Thalbitzer, 
1905 and 1913), to trace the nationality of these 
savages from the words preserved, Vsetilldi, Uvaegi, 
Avalldamon, Valldidida. 1 The explorers of a later age 
were not very happy in their transliteration of native 
words, and we cannot imagine that these names were 
handed down through a period of oral transmission 
without a fatal amount of transformation. That the 

1 The most that can be said is that the lid sound occurring in 
three of the four words was probably characteristic of the language. 
Mr. Thalbitzer permits himself an unrestricted range through the 
Eskimo vocabulary for words resembling in sound those cited in the 
saga. This obviously leaves room for a considerable chance of merely 
accidental resemblance. Mr. Thalbitzer s equivalents for * Vaetilldi 
and Uvaegi are uwatille* and uwatje , meaning wait a little, 
please and wait a little . The 11 we are told is strongly aspirated, 
and may be represented by tl . By a curious coincidence, which 
shows the danger of arguing on these lines, these Eskimo words have 
almost the same sound as their English rendering you wait a little , 
you wait . 


rest of what is reported is inaccurate in most particulars 
is no more than we should expect under the cir 


One statement, however, in this passage, to which 
most commentators have devoted an abnormal amount 
of attention, merely purports to be a conjecture on the 
part of those who heard the story, and does not involve 
any necessary inaccuracy in the reported utterance of 
the captives. I refer to the allusion to Hvitramanna 
land (White Man s Country) or Ireland the Great. 
The existence or non-existence of such a place as this, 
while it has exercised the ingenuity of almost all 
writers on the present subject, has really nothing to do 
with the authenticity of the Wineland stories. All that 
appears from the passage is that certain persons, 
on hearing an account of an adjacent land supposed to 
have been described by these Skraeling children, 
jumped to the conclusion that Hvitramannaland was 
the place described, and the non-existence of such 
a country would merely prove that these persons were 
wrong in their conjecture, not that the story itself was 
unworthy of credence. What the savages may have 
been struggling to explain I will suggest later. Here, 
the point having been made that it is quite irrelevant, 
it may be interesting to follow the allusion a little 

What was apparently in the minds of those who 
made the conjecture referred to was a passage in 
Landnama (i. 22) which tells how one Ari Marsson 
was driven by storms to * Hvitramannaland, which 
some call Ireland the Great; it lies westward in the 


ocean near Wineland the Good : it is called six days 
(daegra) sail west from Ireland : Ari did not succeed 
in getting away from thence, and he was baptized 
there. This story was first told by Rafn the Limerick - 
farer, who had been long at Limerick in Ireland.. 
Thorkel Gellison (uncle of Ari the Learned) stated that 
Icelanders say, who had heard it from (Earl) Thorfin 
in the Orkneys, that Ari had been recognized in 
Hvitramannaland, and did not succeed in getting 
away from it, but was held in great honour there. 

In the Eyrbyggja Saga a similar story is told, 
though the name of the strange country is omitted, 
of one Bjorn Asbrandsson, who was cast in the same 
way upon a land to the south-west of Ireland, where he 
was subsequently recognized by an Icelander named 
Gudleif Gudlaugson. This story does not appear 
to me sufficiently relevant to the subject in hand 
to warrant more detailed notice, though the curious 
will find ample mention of it in other works on the 
Wineland question. 

Apart from the irrelevance of these stories, those 
familiar with the laws of evidence will doubtless agree 
that lands where a hero is said to have made his 
final disappearance, reported as they must necessarily 
be on hearsay testimony, are on a very different footing 
from countries whose explorers returned to describe 
them in person. The only value either one way 
or the other of this passage from Landnatna lies 
in the mention of Wineland the Good as a place 
known and acknowledged to exist at a period long 
antecedent to the date of any extant manuscript of 
these voyages. The proximity of Hvitramannaland 
to Wineland is presumably a conjecture by the authors 


of Landnama, who would naturally tend to connect 
with one another any unknown lands reported in 
a westerly direction. It seems to me highly improb 
able that Wineland found any mention in the original 
story told by Rafn from Limerick. At any rate, no one 
can be justified in basing an argument on the assump 
tion that it did, as does Dr. Nansen, 1 when he says, in 
support of his argument that the Celtic imagination 
has played a large part in corrupting the traditions of 
Wineland, Ravn must have heard of both Hvi tra- 
mannaland and Wineland in Ireland, since otherwise 
he could not have known that one lay near the 

Anyhow, if Hvitramannaland was but six daegra 
sail from Ireland it cannot really have been anywhere 
near Wineland, assuming the latter to be in America. 
If we follow the Eyrbyggja Saga in placing it to the 
south-west rather than the west of Ireland the distance 
is more suggestive of the Azores. Storm, however, is 
of opinion that the stories of Ari Marsson and Bjorn 
Asbrandsson are a perversion of Irish legends of the 
Christian occupation of Iceland, which a knowledge 
of the position and characteristics of that island had 
shifted to a different locality, retaining the distance 
(six * dsegra sail) which, in the form sex dierum 
navigatione , is recorded by Pliny and adopted by Bede 
and Dicuil with reference to Thule. There seems 
much to be said for such a view, particularly as 
Ireland the Great seems intended to convey the idea 
of an Irish colony (cf. Magna Grsecia, &c.), and, if so, 
Hvitramannaland must be regarded as a mythical 

1 In Northern Mists, vol. i, p. 354. 


It by no means follows, however, that the state 
ments attributed to the captive Skraelings must be 
placed in the same category. Whatever these state 
ments may have conveyed to a Scandinavian audience, 
either contemporary or subsequent, there seems no 
reason for us to read into the description a procession 
of Christian priests, as so many commentators seem to 
have agreed in doing. 

Of course such statements as these, even when the 
captives had been taught speech , would be very 
liable to misinterpretation. It is not difficult, among 
the well-authenticated voyages of a later period, to 
find instances of native reports which were understood 
to convey notions the possibility of which must have 
originated in the mind of the questioner. Thus we 
find in the explorations of Jacques Cartier such passages 
as the following : c Donnacona had told us that he 
had been in the country of Saguenay, in which are 
infinite Rubies, Gold, and other riches, and that there 
are white men, who clothe themselves with woollen cloth, 
even as we do in France Misunderstanding of answers 


to questions based on preconceived ideas may thus 
account for much, but, farther than this, accounts in 
themselves accurate may easily become coloured by 
a false association of ideas as the tradition passes 
from mouth to mouth. Thus in the present case it 
may well be that those who gave us the saga in its 
present form understood the statements of the Skrael- 
ings to imply the existence of some such Christian 
community as later commentators have imagined. But 
the statements themselves are capable of an explanation 
more consonant with fact. The dressed deerskin of 
the Indians, before being treated with smoke, is as 


white as a kid glove, and robes of this unsmoked 
material are not uncommon, particularly if intended for 
ceremonial use. I have myself seen coats of the Indians 
of Labrador decorated with a few unimportant lines 
and patterns in red paint which would have led me to 
say with perfect truthfulness of the wearer that he 
wore white clothes . As for the uttering of loud 
cries , this is a trait far more easily reconciled with the 
idea of an Indian than a Christian ceremony. What is 
described as an Indian Flag , adorned it is true with 
feathers in place of bunting, is figured in Schoolcraft s 
book at Plate 13 of vol. iii, and it is difficult to think 
how else any one could describe it, while other instances 
of poles and flags will occur to the reader of almost any 
work on the North American Indians. 

On the whole there seems no very violent improba 
bility in thinking that some Indian ceremony on the 
mainland might be referred to in some such language 
as is here attributed to the Skraeling prisoners. 

It will be convenient, before closing this chapter, to 
sum up the conclusions at which we have arrived. 

1 . At the time when savages, using stone implements 
and canoes, had been described and reported in Iceland, 
no meeting with the Greenland Eskimo had taken 

2. There was at the time no other source from 
which descriptions of savages could be realistically 
drawn, unless the Norsemen had found them in America. 

3. The description of the personal appearance of the 
Skraelings is neutral it will suit either Indian or 
Eskimo very well ; it is manifestly an accurate picture 
of some sort of savage. 

4. The canoes described resemble Indian canoes, 

2376 N 


except for the name (hudkeipar), skin-canoes . This 
point, however, can be explained, either by supposing 
a natural misconception as to the material used, or by 
taking the word employed to be that which the kayaks 
of Eskimo in Greenland, by the time the sagas were 
written, had brought into use as the natural word for 
any form of canoe. 

5. The trading with furs for red cloth, the beast s 
marrow mixed with blood, the sleeping under canoes, 
the yelling and fighting, are markedly Indian charac 

6. An Indian weapon in use in former times has 
been independently described by Schoolcraft, which 
exactly resembles something described in the saga. 

7. The people described display terror at unfamiliar 
sights and sounds, e. g. a domesticated bull ; they are 
unacquainted with civilized weapons ; they are 
unsophisticated but vindictive. All these are genuine 
savage characteristics, some of them specially appro 
priate to Indians. 

8. The waving poles cannot be satisfactorily 
explained as kayak paddles, and any attempt made 
to identify the words ascribed to the Skraeling captives 
as Eskimo, after they had been transcribed by- several 
generations of copyists, must necessarily be very 

9. The * Hvitramannaland passage can be inter 
preted in a sense consistent with Indian customs, 
though any alleged statements by the savages must be 
regarded as most untrustworthy and extremely liable 
to misinterpretation. 

10. The descriptions are accurate and life-like, and 
show no clear traces of features borrowed from Celtic 

S K Ry L I N G S 195 

or other romantic sources. On the whole, then, we 
may assert confidently that the sagas contain accurate 
descriptions of American Indians, and that these, made 
at a time when savages were otherwise unknown to 
the Norsemen, constitute an unimpeachable confirma 
tion of the essential historic accuracy of the story. 



BEFORE passing on to examine the voyages them 
selves, with a view to identifying so far as possible the 
territory explored, it is advisable to clear the way by 
the discussion of two questions, the first of which 
provides by its solution an approximate standard for 
the measurement of certain distances recorded, while 
the second provides a rough northerly limit to the 
possible situation of Wineland. The two questions 
are not in any way connected, except as being pre 
liminaries to any trustworthy inquiry : as such they 
may conveniently be dealt with in one chapter, which 
may be skipped by the unscientifically inclined. 

Dcegr sigling . 

In the early days with which the present volume 
is concerned, the only method of measuring distances 
at sea was necessarily by time. No astronomical 
observations capable of giving results even approxi 
mately exact can then have been understood, and it is 
a curious fact in the history of navigation that even 
the simplest form of log for calculating the rate of 
progress was not introduced until comparatively 
modern times. The most natural method of measuring 
nautical distances in these circumstances would be by 
means of units corresponding to the usual divisions of 
time. We should therefore expect to find one unit 


representing an hour s sail, another representing a 
voyage of twelve hours, and for use over long tracts of 
open sea possibly a unit based on the average progress 
during. a period of twenty-four hours. 

Now the standards of nautical measurement found 
actually to have been used by the Icelanders are 
primarily two the vika , and the tylft or dozen, 
which, as its name implies, represented twelve of the 
first-named units. It will be found useful for the 
present inquiry to establish first of all, with as much 
certainty as possible, the distances represented by the 
vika and the tylft . 

In a fifteenth-century manuscript incorporated in 
the collection of scientific treatises known as Rim- 
begla the following passage is to be found (p. 482) : 
Between Bergen and Nidaros (Trondhjem) there 
are about four degrees, so one degree comes to 
about a nautical "tylft". Pausing here, we may 
observe that the voyage from Bergen to Trondhjem 
was evidently recognized to be four nautical tylfts . 
The passage continues : now a degree on land and a 
" tylft " at sea are equal, and there are two " tylfts" in 
a day s (daegur) sailing. To the expression used for a 
day s sailing attention will have to be directed later on, 
but for the present it may be allowed to stand in the 
non-controversial form into which it is translated 
above. Taken as an accurate statement of the case, 
this quotation from Rimbegla has given us the follow 
ing table : 

i vika = 5 nautical miles. 

1 tylft = i degree (60 nautical miles). 

2 tylfts = i day s sail (120 nautical miles). 
Now if a day s sail be taken here as equivalent to 

198 T H E <D JE G R A N D 

twenty-four hours, we have precisely the divisions of 
distance which, as I said at the outset, we ought to 
expect where the measurement is effected by time. 
A * vika represents an hour s run, a tylft twelve 
hours, and a day s sail twenty-four hours. Whether, 
the geographical distances which they are alleged to 
represent have been correctly stated is another matter, 
into which we may now look a little more closely. 

It is evident that the assumed correspondence be 
tween a * tylft and a degree, which, having regard to 
the state of navigation in the saga period, must in any 
case have been accidental, rests upon the hypothesis 
that the length of a voyage from Bergen to Trondhjem 
is four degrees or 240 nautical miles. The difference 
of latitude between the two places is in fact little more 
than three degrees, and even the rhumb-line connecting 
Bergen and Trondhjem is not 240 nautical miles in 
length ; this error, however, need not necessarily have 
any effect on the author s calculation. But on work 
ing out the shortest distance covered by a ship sailing 
from the one place to the other, it is apparent that in 
calling this distance four degrees a serious under-state- 
ment is made which vitiates the conclusion arrived at. 
This distance as sailed at the present day is said to be 
318 nautical miles, and calculation or inspection of 
a chart will show that it is impossible to bring it much 
below 300, so that if this represents four * tylfts , 
calculated by time, as it probably did, our table must 
be revised as follows : 

i vika = 6-25 miles, 

i tylft = 75 miles. 

. i day s sail = 1 50 miles. 

This estimate is corroborated to some extent by the 


scale of Icelandic sea-miles (vikur) given in Troil s 
Letters on Iceland (1780), where they are represented 
as nine to a degree or equal to 6f miles each. Exact 
correspondence is of course not to be expected in 
standards of measurement arrived at by so rough a 
method as the time occupied on an average voyage. 

Another tylft capable of measurement is that 
given in the Greenland sailing directions attributed to 
Ivar Bardson. Here the distance so described is that 
between Reykjanes (lat. 63 24 N., long. 22 40 W.) 
and Snsefellsnes (lat. 64 55 30" N., long. 23 59 40" 
W.). Calculation gives the length of a rhumb-line 
between the two points as 73-54 miles, according to 
which a vika would be about 6- 1 2 miles, which once 
more justifies the assumption that something over six 
rather than five miles must be the correct measurement 
of this unit. 

If the line of reasoning has been correct so far, it 
follows that the average rate of speed on an Icelandic 
voyage under favourable conditions would be some 
thing over six knots. The next thing to ascertain is 
the highest speed possible under exceptionally favour 
able circumstances. Fortunately this point is also 
capable of determination. It is unnecessary, and 
probably misleading, to enter, as Mr. Babcock does, 
into calculations based on the speed of modern ships. 
In the saga of Olaf the Saint (see this saga in 
Heimskringla, \ 125), one Thorar Nefjolfson accom 
plished what was evidently regarded as a remarkable 
feat by sailing from Norway (Moeri) to Eyrarbakki in 
Iceland in the space of four days and four nights. 
There is in this case no ambiguity about the meaning 
of eight * daegra , the period recorded, for Thorar 

200 . THE D R G R AND 

himself refers to the fact that four nights previously he 
was with the King in Norway. The starting-point may 
safely be taken as Stad, which lay in the Sondmore 
district, since we know from other sources that it was 
the usual place of departure for Iceland, as indeed its 
geographical position at the extremity of the westerly 
trend of the coast-line from Trondhjem would render 
inherently probable. The geographical position of Stad 
is 62 n N., 5 8 E. The distance to Eyrarbakki 
(63 51 45" N., 21 7 W.) round the most southern 
point of Iceland (63 23 45" N., 19 5 5" W.) comes 
in round figures to about 730 nautical miles. This 
would represent a rate of about 7-6 knots, and though 
this is probably too little, as the course can hardly have 
been so direct and we know neither the precise place 
of departure nor the exact times of start and finish, we 
shall be safe in assuming that anything appreciably 
over eight knots was beyond the extreme powers of 
an Icelandic vessel. 

According to our calculations, then, the average 
distance covered in twelve hours with a fair breeze 
would be about seventy-five miles, and having obtained 
these important data we may now proceed to consider 
more particularly the unit of distance uniformly em 
ployed in the story of Wineland, namely the daegr sig- 
ling or day s sail. 

In its strictly scientific signification there can be no 
doubt that a * dsegr is a period of twelve hours. The 
Rimbegla (not the treatise already cited, but another 
incorporated in the same collection) is explicit upon 
the point. In a day there are two " dsegra ", in a 
"dsegr" twelve hours (p. 6). In nautical phraseology, 
in which the word most commonly occurs, it cannot be 


denied that it is sometimes used with the same 
meaning. The passage already quoted, recording the 
voyage of Thorar Nefjolfson, is a case in point. On 
the other hand, the statement of the Rimbegla treatise 
already cited, that there are * two tylfts in a " daegur " 
sailing , must clearly be interpreted as meaning twenty- 
four hours, since even 120 nautical miles could not be 
covered in twelve hours at what we have found to be 
the extreme speed of an Icelandic sailing ship, and we 
should always hesitate to assume the identity of local 
or technical usage with accurate scientific terminology. 

One might, for example, be led seriously astray by 
taking the length of a mile from a geographical text 
book and applying it under all circumstances to any 
distance called by the same name. 

The author of the last-mentioned passage in the 
Rimbegla seems indeed to use daegr and dag 
interchangeably, for he goes on to say that ninety 
degrees of the earth s circumference would take forty- 
five dag siglingar , and the complete circumnavigation 
of the globe would occupy 180 * dag siglingar . If this 
passage stood alone it would doubtless be possible to 
explain the first * daegr as a mere verbal slip ; it is 
accordingly necessary to examine the matter from a 
different standpoint, and to investigate the distances 
said to be covered by a given number of dsegra sigling . 

A convenient passage for this purpose occurs in 
Landnama I, i. The writer is evidently endeavour 
ing to fix the position of Iceland by reference to well- 
known points on all sides of it. With this object he 
makes the following statement : 

Wise men say that from Norway from Stad it is 
seven "dsegra" sail west to Horn on the east of 


Iceland ; but from Snaefellsnes where the distance is 
shortest, there are four "daegra" of sea to Hvarf in 
Greenland. 1 . . . From Reykjanes in the south of Ice 
land there are five "dsegra" of sea to Jolduhlaup in 
Ireland, to the south, while from Langanes in the north 
of Iceland there are four " dsegra " of sea to Svalbarda 
in the Polar Sea (Hafsbotn) and it is a " dsegr " sail to 
the uninhabited parts of Greenland from Kolbein s 
island (Mevenklint) north. 

Let us examine these statements seriatim. 

Horn in the east of Iceland may either mean the 
modern Cape Horn, the most easterly point of the 
country, or more probably East Horn a little further 
to the south-west. My reason for preferring the latter 
place is that it appears to have been the most easterly 
Horn known as such to the authors of Landnama. It 
is referred to shortly afterwards in describing the 
discovery of the land by Gardar, and was evidently 
not the most easterly point of the country, for Gardar 
is said to have arrived to the east of it. The position 
of the most easterly part of Cape Horn is 65 5 N., 
13 27 45" W. ; that of East Horn is 64 20 N, 
14 25 W. The distances from Stad to these two 
places respectively are 524-67 and 543-46 miles. In 
this case, therefore, it is clear that seven periods of 
twelve hours are meant, and the distance covered in 
each daegr corresponds closely with the average 
* tylft at which we have already arrived, being from 
74-9 to 77! miles according to the objective chosen. 
It is clear from this that we are here dealing with 
averages, and not, as Storm suggests, with records, for 
the rate is but 6*4 knots at the outside, which apart 

1 So Hauk : other texts have simply west to Greenland . 


from what we know of Thorar Nefjolfson s voyage is 
obviously nothing extraordinary, while the journey 
between these two points must in all probability have 
been traversed more frequently than any of the others 
here referred to. 

Hvarf (turning-point) in Greenland was either Cape 
Farewell or one of the promontories such as Sermesok 
lying immediately to the north-west of it, and for our 
present purpose it will be fair enough to calculate the 
distance to Cape Farewell. 

This works out at about 631 miles in a direct line, 
and it is at once evident that four periods of twelve 
hours are quite insufficient to cover the voyage. On 
the other hand, four days of twenty-four hours suit 
remarkably well, the rate being about 6| knots. 

Let me now deal with one or two possible objections. 
First it may be urged that the version of the passage 
which specifies Hvarf as the objective may be wrong, 
and that the coast of Greenland immediately west of 
Snaefellsnes is the point of measurement. The words 
west to Greenland , which take the place of any men 
tion of Hvarf in the alternative reading, may seem to 
bear out this view, but a glance at the chart will show 
that all the courses laid down must be interpreted with 
considerable freedom, and that Hvarf answers as 
closely to west of Iceland as, say, Ireland to south of 
Reykjanes. The real answers to the objection, 
however, are first that no one can ever have com 
pleted an uninterrupted voyage to a point in Greenland 
due west of Snaefellsnes, having regard to the ice 
barrier which at this point intervenes between the 
coast and the open sea ; and next that the distance to 
Greenland due west of Snaefellsnes, about sixteen 

204 THE <D^GR AND 

degrees of longitude, is at least 400 miles, and is there 
fore an equally impossible distance to cover in forty- 
eight hours sailing. Finally, it is surely more probable 
that a point regularly passed on the voyage between 
Iceland and Greenland should be chosen for measure 
ment than an undefined locality in an unexplored 
region hundreds of miles out of the track of practical 
navigation. The next objection will possibly be that 
I have measured the distance on the rhumb-line, 
whereas it appears from the old sailing directions that 
this was by no means the usual course adopted. The 
course laid down in the directions attributed to Ivar 
Bardson appears to lie west for a day and a night and 
then in a south-westerly direction parallel to the belt 
of ice. Now first of all it must be remembered that 
a rhumb-line course is not actually the shortest, and if 
a day and a night due west be laid down on the chart 
and the remainder of the distance be calculated from 
say longitude 29-45 W., the resulting distance will not 
be very materially increased, but will come to some 
where about 645 miles, which can still be covered in 
four days, at a rate of about 6-7 knots. In point of 
fact probably all the courses with which I am dealing 
would in practice be longer than I have estimated 
them, and the average rate which I have deduced 
from them should be slightly increased, while the same 
does not apply to the rate of eight knots which 1 have 
tak,en as the maximum, since in this case a liberal 
allowance for deviation has already been made. If it 
be said that my maximum and average rates are in 
such circumstances brought rather close together, I 
reply that in fact a gale does not bring with it a very 
great advantage in speed over a fair sailing breeze, as 


the effect of the sea raised is to neutralize much of 
the gain which might otherwise be anticipated. If the 
distance actually travelled between Snaefellsnes and 
Hvarf be increased even to 700 miles, the rate is not 
much over seven knots, or well within the limits 
assigned. For these reasons the distance given in 
Landnama between the two points seems to me to be 
a correct statement, but dsegra sigling must here be 
interpreted as days of twenty-four hours. 

Similarly in the case of the voyage from Reykjanes 
to Jolduhlaup in Ireland. This cannot by any means 
be brought within the space of five * dsegra of twelve 
hours each. Approximately the nearest points in Ireland 
may be taken as about 688 miles distant. Malin Head 
in the north and Erris Head in the west of Ireland 
are almost equidistant from Reykjanes, the former 
being some 685, the latter 690 miles from the starting- 
point. There is no real reason to suppose that any 
point in Ireland so near to Iceland is the true position 
of Jolduhlaup. It is evident on the other hand that 
a very few more miles will make the distance recorded 
perfectly consistent with five days of twenty-four hours. 
If we bring our ship into Sligo Bay the distance will 
be 718-6 miles, or ten tylfts of 71-8. This would be 
perfectly consistent with the standards of distance 
already considered, but of course Jolduhlaup may 
easily have lain even farther away than this from 
Reykjanes. The name is generally taken to mean 
* wave -run , and is sometimes spelt Olduhlaup. Joyce l 
attributes a Scandinavian origin to the name of 
Olderfleet close to Larne Harbour, and as hlaup and 
fljot are both common terminations meaning stream , 
1 Irish Place Names, vol. i, p. 106. 


this word in an Icelandic form (Oldufljot) would be 
practically identical with Olduhlaup. The author 
above quoted says that the first part of Olderfleet is 
a Scandinavian corruption of Ollorbha, the Celtic name 
of Larne water, but whether the true derivation be. 
from this word or oldu a wave is a question which 
applies equally to Olderfleet and Jolduhlaup and 
affords no ground of distinction between them. As 
far as names are concerned the two may well be 
identical. Larne would be the first important harbour 
after entering the North Channel between Scotland 
and Ireland, and may well have been chosen therefore 
as a well-known point for the measurements in 
Landnama, From Reykjanes to Rathlin Island off 
the entrance of the North Channel is about 713 miles, 
thence to Larne would be about thirty-seven more, 
making a distance, if there be anything in this conjecture, 
of some 750 miles to be covered in the five daegra 
ten * tylfts of seventy-five miles, which corresponds 
exactly with our amended table. 

It has been objected that some of the MSS. do not 
read five daegra ; this is true, but the alternative 
(three daegra) does not help those who contend for a 
twelve hours daegr , while even if we adopt the 
arbitrary emendation of the version printed at Skalholt 
in 1688 and read eight daegra , the rate of travel, even 
to the nearest point, would be too rapid to be normal. 
We have therefore once more a statement remarkably 
consistent with our data if we interpret a daegr as 
twenty-four hours, and wholly impossible if a daegr 
must universally be considered as only twelve. 

In estimating the distance from Langanes to 
Svalbarda we are confronted with the difficulty that 


we do not know where the latter place can have been. 
I am content, however, to admit that in this case a 
dsegr of twelve hours seems to be indicated. Four 
times ^twenty-four hours would penetrate too far into 
the Arctic regions to be at all probable, while Jan 
Mayen seems best to fulfil the conditions of a spot to 
the north of Langanes, situated in the Polar Sea. 

From the point of Langanes to the southern extremity 
of Jan Mayen is about 296 miles, or 4 * tylfts of 74 miles, 
the route in summer would at this point normally be 
clear of ice, and altogether it seems probable that Jan 
Mayen rather thanSpitzbergen,as sometimes suggested 
(840 miles away), is the place described as Svalbarda. 

The last distance recorded is from Kolbein s Island 
(Mevenklint) to the uninhabited coast of Greenland 
lying to the north. The position of Mevenklint is in 
lat. 67 10 N., long. 18 30 W., and the nearest point 
on the Greenland coast would be about lat. 69 40 N., 
long. 2 2 48 W. The distance would therefore be 
177-45 nautical miles, and so it is evident that it 
could not be covered by a voyage of twelve hours. 
In .twenty-four hours, however, under exceptionally 
favourable conditions, the whole distance could be 
traversed, and in any case in that period of time a ship 
would be likely to have got as close to the land as the 
ice would permit. It is not likely that this particular 
voyage, which is not included in all the texts of 
Landnama, was sufficiently often accomplished to 
enable a fair average to be taken ; the allusion is more 
probably to a special case within the knowledge of the 
authors, which would in all likelihood have taken place 
on an exceptionally favourable opportunity. 

Now the conclusions to which we are forced by the 

208 THE < D , G R AND 

consideration of all these distances recorded in 
Landnama are as follows : 

1. Only two out of the five voyages are at all 
compatible with a * dsegr sigling of twelve hours. 

2. These two appear to be very accurately recorded, 
which raises a presumption in favour of the correctness 
of the other data. In the voyage from Stad to 
C. Horn we have exactly seven tylfts of 74-9 miles 
to cover in seven daegra, in that from Langanes to 
Svalbarda (if Jan Mayen is meant) four tylfts of 
seventy-four miles each in four daegra. 

3. Either the remaining three are hopelessly inaccu 
rate, or a dsegr sigling in these cases means twenty- 
four hours. 

4. If they are inaccurate, it is a most remarkable 
coincidence that they can all be made accurate by 
adopting the basis of twenty-four hours, 

Thus, taking the average of seventy-five miles in 
twelve hours at which we had previously arrived : 

The distance from Stad to C. Horn would take 6-9 
or practically seven days of twelve hours (given as 
seven daegra). 

If the alternative Horn be taken the voyage would 
occupy 7-1 days. 

From Snaefellsnes to Hvarf would be 4* i days of 
twenty-four hours (given as four daegra). 

In sailing from Reykjanes to any part of Ireland one 
could not arrive before the fifth day of twenty-four 
hours was well advanced, and it would be easy to find 
a point which would occupy exactly the time prescribed. 
From Langanes to Jan Mayen the distance is correct 
within eight miles, which may easily be accounted for 
by slight differences in the points of arrival or departure. 


From Mevenklint to Greenland would occupy 1-16 
days of twenty-four hours. 

Thus the discrepancies are so slight that even if the 
rate had to be limited to this average, the statements 
would fee as correct as so vague a unit as a day s journey 
would permit, and of course the variation in speed 
must have been greatly in excess of anything required 
absolutely to justify these estimates in the smallest 

That in the case of three out of five statements such 
a correspondence should be fortuitous seems to me to 
be out of the question. 

It will doubtless be objected that I am not justified 
in interpreting the same word in the same passage by 
two different periods of time. The compilers of the 
Landnamabok, however, expressly disclaim personal 
responsibility for the statistics recorded. They are 
based on the reports of vitrir menn , men that is with 
the requisite special knowledge, and once it is admitted 
that the meaning of the expression * daegr may have 
varied from place to place, there is nothing extra 
ordinary in a discrepancy of this nature being 
exemplified in a passage based on information gathered 
from different informants in the east and west of 

It is comparatively easy to see how such a dis 
crepancy in nautical use may have arisen. Evidently 
daegr sigling was the usual nautical expression for a 
day s sail. This is shown not only by the fact that it 
is nearly always in a nautical context that the word 
daegr makes its appearance, but also by the opening 
sentence of the Landnamabok s preface, which renders 
Bede s words sex dierum navigatione by sex daegra 


sigling as the obvious equivalent. Now of course 
until the exodus brought about in Scandinavia by the 
policy of Harold Haarfagre, the vast majority of the 
voyages undertaken by Norsemen were along the coast 
of Norway and the adjacent countries, and were carried 
on almost entirely by day, the ships putting into a 
convenient haven almost every night. The coast of 
Norway, before the days of lighthouses, cannot have 
been a pleasant place to navigate in the dark, and 
in fact we almost always find it recorded, as an 
exceptional occurrence, when any motive induced the 
seamen of this period to sail day and night without 
stopping. A day s journey in a ship would therefore 
in the normal course be equivalent to the distance 
covered in a dsegr of twelve hours, and thus the appli 
cation of this word to a nautical day s journey doubtless 
began. Then, when colonial expansion and viking 
enterprises made continuous open-sea voyages more 
common, two courses would be open to those who 
wished to record the distance travelled. They might 
take the nautical expression dsegr as referring to 
the twelve hours actually occupied in sailing under old 
conditions, or they might take it as extending to the 
period during which the ships of less venturous seamen 
had usually lain at anchor. A man who had taken 
say four daegra to sail between two points, stopping 
at night, would actually have travelled but forty-eight 
hours, but the time occupied from point to point would 
have been four days of twenty-four hours. According 
to the aspect of the question which struck a sailor 
accustomed to this method of reckoning he would be 
likely to call a continuous voyage of four days either 
four or eight dsegra . Thus a variety in local usage 


might quite naturally spring up which would account 
for the discrepancy which has given rise to the 
difficulties with which I have been endeavouring 
to deaL 

Of course it is but seldom in passages where this 
expression is used that we have any data at all to 
enable us to say which meaning should be attached to 
the word. In the sagas of Wineland the word daegr 
occurs perhaps with unusual frequency, and to my mind 
every passage where it is there employed might be 
prayed in aid of the argument that a dsegr sigling 
was frequently twenty-four hours. But to use these 
passages at this stage would be to argue in a circle, and 
we must be content to rest the assumption that the 
word was so used on the data of which use has been 
made in the foregoing argument, reserving to ourselves 
the right in subsequent investigation of the voyages to 
accept what is there stated with regard to distances 
sailed, even though on the hypothesis that a * dsegr 
can only mean twelve hours the statements made are 
clearly incredible. 

The eyktarstad problem. 

In the account of Leif s sojourn in Wineland, con 
tained in the Flatey Book, will be found a passsage 
which has given rise to more acute controversy than 
any other in the story. It runs as follows : 

Sol hafSe f>ar eyktarstad ok dagmalastad um 
skamdegi the sun had there eykt place and breakfast 
place on the shortest day, or, as rendered in our 
translation, p. 42, on the shortest day the sun was up 
over the (Icelandic) marks for both nones and break 
fast time . 

o 2 

212 T H E D ;E G R A N D 

Now one may note in passing that, whatever the 
significance of the words, they are evidently not the 
sort of thing which a romanticizing saga-writer would 
introduce from his own imagination. This is admitted 
by the most adverse critics of the authority which 
reproduces them. 

In view of the attitude taken up by some modern 
writers, it is important to point out their entire in 
dependence of anything to be extracted from the rival 
version. They go far to disprove, if disproof be 
necessary, the theory that the Flatey Book account 
is borrowed from the Saga of Eric the Red. 

But at this point in the inquiry we are less con 
cerned with this than with the precise significance of 
the expression used, and though the question has 
finally been solved, and nothing new can be added, 
it is necessary, for the sake of readers unfamiliar 
with the subject, to devote some space to the 

The Icelanders, possessing no clocks or scientifically 
constructed dials, were in the habit of estimating the 
time of day by the position of the sun above the 
horizon. With this object they marked eight points 
upon the horizon, utilizing hills and natural objects 
where such were conveniently situated, and erecting 
cairns in places which were otherwise undistinguished. 
This method of time-keeping, crude as it was, persisted 
down to very recent times, if indeed it is not still in 
use in some parts of the country. Henderson, who 
visited Iceland in 1814-15, describes the method in 
some detail (Iceland, vol. i, p. 186), and gives the 
names and time-equivalents of the various points as 
follows : 


1. Midnaetti. About n p.m. 

2. Otta. 2 a.m. 

3. Midur-morgun 

(or Hirdis-rismal). ,, 5 a.m. 

4. Dagmal. ,, 8 a.m. 

5. Hadegi. ,, n a.m. 

6. Non. ,, 2 p.m. 

7. Midur Aptan. 5 p.m. 

8. Nattmal. 8 p.m. 

In an earlier work, 1 the same divisions of time are 
mentioned, but with some difference in the equivalents, 
thus : * Otta is with them three o clock in the morning ; 
Midur morgon or Herdis rismal, five o clock ; Dagmal, 
half past eight; Haadege, eleven; Nonn, three in the 
afternoon ; Midur afton, six in the morning (sic : 
obviously should be * afternoon ) ; nattmal, eight, and 
midnatt twelve o clock at night. A little thought 
will make apparent the reasons for these discrepancies 
in time, for not only is the method exceedingly rough, 
but of course the horizontal bearing or azimuth of the 
sun at a particular time is not the same throughout 
the year, and it also varies with the latitude. For 
example, taking the latitude of Iceland as 65 , and 
the obliquity of the ecliptic in A.D. 1000 as 23 34 , 
which is substantially accurate, and calculating the 
sun s bearing at three o clock p.m. throughout the year, 
we get : 

Midsummer: S. 57 9 W. 

Equinox : S. 47 49 W. 

Midwinter : S. 40 36 W. (not visible) 
while on shifting the latitude to 51 30 (about that of 

1 Troll s Letters on Iceland, 1780, p. 118. 

214 T H E D AL G R A N D 

London) we get a bearing of 68 1 7 for 3 p.m. at 

It appears, however, from the fact that one of the 
eight points was midnight, and another hadegi (high 
day or noon), that the scheme would aim at dividing 
the equinoctial day into three-hour intervals. Dagmal 
would then be about 9 a.m. and N6n 3 p.m. The 
latter word originally meant the ecclesiastical * nones 
(3 p.m.) and in old Icelandic eykt is used as synony 
mous with nones . 

In the Icelandic Ecclesiastical Code, or Kristinret, 
instructions are given for the correct location of the 
mark for * eykt . It is eykt , says the law, * when the 
south-west airt is divided into three, and the sun has 
passed two divisions and has one to go. This gives 
us a bearing of S. 52 30 W. for eykt or nones, 
which would be, in Iceland of the eleventh century, 
pretty correct for 3 p.m. between the equinoxes and 
the summer solstice, during nearly the whole time, 
that is, when the sun would be visible at this hour 
in these northerly latitudes. (See accompanying 

Now the root error of all the earlier commentators 
who attempted the elucidation of the passage, under 
consideration consisted in treating eykt not as a solar 
bearing, but as a definite clock time. Three o clock 
clearly would not do, for sunset at 3 p.m. on the 
shortest day in winter indicates a latitude too far north 
to correspond in any way with the climate indicated. 
Torfaeus, the earliest writer on the subject, accordingly 
interpreted the south-west airt as the whole quarter 
between south and west, and dividing the time between 
noon and 6 p.m. (equinoctial west) into thirds he 


arrived at 4 p.m. as the time of sunset, which with 
8 a.m. for Dagmal gave an eight hours day, or a 
latitude of approximately 49 N. Of course, for the 



reasons already given, the bearing corresponding to 
such a division of the horizon (S. 6oW.), assuming 
the latter to be justifiable, would not unalterably 


represent 4 p.m. even in Iceland, and the clock time 
for which the bearing stood in Iceland would be 
indicated by a wholly different position of the sun in 
another latitude. 

Next came what may be called the school of Rafn, 
who claimed to have located the Wineland of the 
sagas with certainty in the neighbourhood of Rhode 
Island. For them an interpretation which resulted in 
a latitude of 49 was unsatisfactory. They accordingly 
prayed in aid a passage from Snorri s Edda, in which 
the winter is said to begin at the point where the sun 
sets in Eyktarstad . It was known that winter, 
according to the Icelandic calendar, began in the week 
preceding the i8th of October, and observation in 
the latitude of Snorri s home showed that the sun 
set there on the iyth of October at 4.30 p.m. As the 
passage is drawing a distinction between autumn and 
winter it could hardly refer to the Icelandic winter 
beginning about the i8th of October, for as Vigfusson 
has pointed out with regard to this division of the 
calendar, which persists in modern Iceland, it is a 
division of the year into summer and winter only, and 
leaves spring and autumn out of account. 1 But it led 
Rafn and his followers to assert, in the teeth of all 
the other evidence, that eykt was not a point but 
a period of time, and that eyktarstad was a point 
which could be interpreted as 4.30 p.m. apparently in 
any latitude! This, with dagmalastad at 7.30 a.m. 
gave a day of nine hours, from which Rafn claimed to 
deduce the latitude to a second of arc as 41 24 10", 
an observation which, accepting Rafn s theory as to 
the locality visited, would be beyond the accuracy of 
1 Corpus Poeticum Borcale, vol. i, p. 430. 


a modern sextant. Unfortunately for this surprising 
result, the method of calculation was hardly so correct, 
for, apart from the fallacy of treating the local time as 
transferable, no correction was made for the effects of 
refraction, &c., and the declination assumed was not 
that of the eleventh but of the nineteenth century. 

It remained for Dr. Gustav Storm to point out the 
correct way of utilizing the data supplied. Assuming 
the instructions in the Kristinret to apply to an 
observation recorded of an earlier day, and assuming 
the passage to mean that the sun set at the precise 
moment of * eykt , the amplitude, or distance from the 
west at setting, of the sun on the shortest day in 
Wineland was 37! . We may assume, as the observer 
would have been looking across the land, that the 
lower edge of the sun was at least 19 above the 
actual horizon, and this being so no allowance for 
refraction or dip of the horizon need be made before 
working out the formula : sec : lat : = sin : amp : cosec : 
decl. Professor Turner, of the Oxford University 
Observatory/has kindly supplied me with the corrected 
declination for the year A.D. 1000, viz: 23 34 8". 
We need not trouble about the seconds, as we know 
neither the precise moment of the solstice nor even 
the year with certainty; omitting these the problem 
works out as follows : 

log sin : amplitude : 9-784447 

log cosec : declination 10-398140 
log sec : latitude: 10-182587 

The latitude therefore would be about 48 57 N. 
This, however, correctly understood, gives only the 
northern limit beyond which the observation could not 
have been made. 

218 THE <D & G R AND 

It might be argued that the refinements enjoined in 
the Kristinret were not likely to have been in operation 
in these primitive times. There seem to have been 
eight day-marks, two of which represented midnight 
and noon respectively, and it would seem more natural 
therefore for men who attached no particular importance 
to the hour of 3 p.m. such as was subsequently associ 
ated with the time of nones, to divide their horizon 
into equal parts, which would serve, at any rate at the 
equinoxes, accurately for 6 a.m. and p.m. and mid-day, 
while dagmal and eykt would occupy the points mid 
way between the others, and stand, less accurately, 
for 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. The answer to this criticism 
probably is that it was found necessary to divide the 
day into equal watches : anyhow, such an interpretation 
cannot be correct, for an amplitude of 45 would give 
a latitude of 55 34 up to which this bearing would 
be visible, and this would be too near the latitude of 
Greenland to be remarkable, while nothing is clearer 
than that the writer of the passage was endeavouring 
to record a marked and surprising difference from the 
length of the winter day to which Greenlanders were 

This in fact, rather than a precise determination of 
latitude, would seem to be the object of the statement, 
taken as a whole. It is as if one were to say, I could 
breakfast, or shave, by daylight all the year round. 
It by no means follows from the passage that dagma- 
lastad and eyktarstad are meant to be understood as 
sunrise and sunset ; in fact, it would involve an extra 
ordinary coincidence if they were. There were only 
eight points in general use by which the time of day 
could be measured or expressed, and to say therefore 


that the sun was up at a particular time does not 
indicate that at that precise moment it was on the 
horizon. Indeed if Rafn had been content with proba 
bilities instead of trying to make the passage support an 
exact determination of latitude, he would have made out 
a fairly strong case, so far as eyktarstad was concerned, 
for the locality which he identified with the explorers 
camp. The chances are that, over a background of 
wooded and hilly ground, actual sunrise and sunset were 
invisible, and that the sun was well up at the time of 
passing over the points recorded. I have calculated 
roughly the altitude of the sun in eyktarstad at the 
time in question, and I make out that even so far south 
as 40 it would not be as much as 5 J. Even assuming 
that the time of sunset was meant, it would not require 
any very great unevenness of the horizon to produce 
the effect of sunset at this point in the latitude supported 
by Rafn, and it is almost certain that the locality 
indicated was much nearer to this latitude than to the 
northern limit of the observation. 

Taken with their context, the words seem to be an 
illustration of the greater equality of day and night 
referred to in the opening words of the sentence. 
Their real value lies in the fact that they embody a 
remark of a circumstantial and business-like character, 
which goes far to support the historical authenticity 
of the narrative. It is not the sort of thing that 
a romancer would invent, it is the sort of thing that 
a traveller would notice. Secondarily, though in all 
probability the words indicate a much more southerly 
latitude, they make it impossible that the site of the 
observation was north of (roughly) 49. To consider 
them as a deliberate attempt to fix latitude is to lose 


sight of all probabilities. Let any who still adhere to 
this interpretation go and fix marks for themselves, 
and endeavour therefrom to ascertain the latitude. 
The south point could of course be fixed accurately, 
by the place of the shortest shadow or various other 
well-known devices. The time equivalents given by 
Henderson and Troil do not, however, suggest that it 
was so fixed as a rule. But without instruments to 
measure the angles for the other marks correctly to 
say 2 would be very difficult indeed, while the 
marks themselves would probably subtend an appreci 
able angle. An error of one degree will be more 
than reproduced in the latitude. Any change in the 
exact position of the observer would be likely to cause 
an inaccuracy of at least this extent ; so that if the 
locality visited is to be identified at all it certainly will 
not be by the use of this passage, on which so many 
commentators have expended so much fruitless in 


THE reader who has attentively followed the argu 
ment so far will, I think, be convinced that the 
discovery and exploration of some parts of America 
by the Norsemen rests upon a solid historical 

It now becomes necessary to deal with a matter as to 
which there is considerably more scope for controversy ; 
the reconstruction, so far as is reasonably possible, of 
the voyages themselves. No one acquainted with the 
difficulties presented by the records of far later explorers, 
such as Cabot and Corte Real, will expect this to be 
a subject on which it is possible to dogmatize ; the 
geographical details can probably never be settled with 
absolute finality. We must advance cautiously and 
by stages, eliminating the impossible and establishing 
broad lines, before we embark on the fascinating task 
of theorizing on points of detail. 

Difficulties of the Task. 

The principal difficulty lies in the fact that in the 
primitive state of the science of navigation at the 
period those particulars are naturally most vague and 
unreliable on which we are most accustomed to 
depend. There are no precise latitudes or longitudes, 
and even the compass, though in use before the extant 
manuscripts were written, was not known to these 

222 T H E V O Y A G E S 

early explorers. For distances we have .to depend on 
periods of time which may have been inaccurately 
copied, and the very meaning of which is a subject 
of acute controversy. (See previous chapter, $ i.) 
The courses set down are quite likely to have been 
affected by the preconceived ideas of later editors, and 
are in any case vague, often only roughly indicated by 
the direction of the wind. 

We have in fact to depend to a large extent on what 
we are told of the appearance of the various coasts, 
and of the different local products. 

And so far as one version of the story is concerned, 
we have to depend for these on the description of one 
voyage only Karlsefni s. With regard to the other 
version, that of the Flatey Book, it must be borne in 
mind that the writers of that saga considered all the 
explorers to have made the same landfall. They 
came to Leifs camp . Now, while this was a natural 
idea to those who had no notion of the size of the 
country, it seems to me improbable that it represents 
the actual facts. To the writer of the Flatey Book 
version, Leifs camp and Wlneland were more or 
less synonymous terms. But the more detailed 
account of Karlsefni s voyage suggests that while the 
later explorer was looking for the district visited 
by Leif, he never in fact found it. Leif seems to 
have hurried ashore on his first sight of the country, 
and to have conducted a merely local exploration. 
His brother, Thorvald, who, following immediately 
after Leif, may have arrived at the same base, we are 
told, thought that the exploration of the country had 
been confined to too narrow an area . Karlsefni, on 
the other hand, after arrival at Keelness, conducted 


a very protracted exploration, and apparently split 
his party into two, one going north and the other south, 
with the object of rediscovering Leif s Wineland. As 
I hope presently to show, Leif cannot have penetrated 
to Karlsefni s Hop. Yet the writer of the Flatey 
Book, imbued with the idea that Leif and Karlsefni 
occupied identical camps, has evidently felt himself at 
liberty to draw his description of the scene of Leif s 
landing from the fullest report available, which, as he 
tells us, was Karlsefni s. Given the notion that all the 
explorers made the same landfall, this was natural 
and legitimate enough, but it adds an element of con 
fusion to our already difficult task. There can, 
I think, be little doubt that the combination of shoal, 
river, and lake in the description of Leif s camp is 
Karlsefni s Hop, but, as will be seen later, it is 
improbable that Leif ever got there. 

I am inclined to think that another instance of the 
same sort of confusion is to be traced in H auk s version 
of the story. After the resolve to return home on 
account of the savages, the author brings the party 
back to Straumsfjord. He then evidently wishes to 
incorporate some matter from different sources. So 
he first puts in a note of some information at variance 
with that just given, Some men say , &c.,and then inter 
polates his version of the death of Thorvald Ericson, 
who, as has been pointed out in the chapter on the 
Flatey Book (p. 1 26), has really no place in this saga up 
to this point. It will be observed that in both versions 
Thorvald is killed on a voyage north past Keelness, 
where as one story has it, it was all covered with 
wood , while the other says, there was nothing but 
desolate woods . It seems most unlikely that Karlsefni s 

224 T H E V O Y A G E S 

party, after a definite resolve to return home, should 
have embarked on a fresh voyage of discovery, so, 
though the evidence may not be conclusive, I am 
inclined to think that the matter here incorporated was 
originally an account of an independent voyage under 
taken by Thorvald, as given in the Flatey Book. The 
verses about the uniped, which are old, certainly 
mention Karlsefni, but, as Storm points out in his 
edition of the saga, the verses seem but loosely fitted 
to the context, and make no mention of the uniped s 
ferocity. It seems probable therefore that the uniped 
is made to kill Thorvald in order that the lay may be 
worked in, just as the author works in the death-speech 
of Thormod Kolbrunarskald, with very little alteration 
and considerable infelicity, as the last words of 
Thorvald Ericson. 

Seeing, then, that we have reason to suspect con 
fusions of this nature, it is plainly impossible to 
discriminate as much as could be wished between the 
different voyages, and we are thrown back mainly on 
Karlsefni, though Bjarni Herjulfson s adventure is on 
rather a different footing, and can be investigated 

The Cardinal Points. 

Faced with these difficulties, how are we to proceed ? 
It is established that the Norsemen visited North 
America : the map of that country lies before us, 
awaiting the results of our survey. The evidence to 
hand is plainly of unequal value ; we are in fact very 
much in the position of the cartographer, whose 
material ranges from the meticulously accurate work of 
the professional expert with his theodolite to the hasty 


compass traverses and sketches of the pioneer explorer 
fighting his way through trackless and savage wilds. 
The method by which the map-maker obtains the most 
satisfactory results from his material is, I think, one to 
be imitated here. To a framework made up of a 
number of points fixed with the utmost certainty of 
which science is capable, he adjusts the less trustworthy 
material, rejecting altogether that which cannot be 
brought into line with such facts as have been definitely 
ascertained. Any haphazard selection of separate 
items is bound to result in a considerable if not 
a cumulative error. 

So in the present case, unless we adhere inflexibly 
to what may be regarded as our fixed points, adapting 
that which fits, either wholly or in part, and inexorably 
rejecting the remainder, we shall be apt to jump to 
a conclusion and indulge in an arbitrary selection of 
whatever pieces of evidence happen to support it. 
A study of the results achieved by some earlier 
investigators of the subject presses this danger very 
forcibly upon one s attention. 

Now perhaps some may be inclined to demur to 
the use of such an expression as * fixed points in this 
connexion, but there are really quite a number of 
statements standing out from the rest as facts which 
anyone who credits the sagas at all must regard as 
reasonably certain. These I will endeavour to set out 
before drawing any conclusions, in the hope that, 
studied apart from any question of where they may 
lead us, they may meet with general acceptance. 

i. A line drawn about the 49th parallel of 
north latitude is fixed by the eyktarstad observation 
as the northern limit of the area in which Wineland is 



to be sought. The passage, as we have seen, cannot 
be interpreted to mean that the sun set on the shortest 
day precisely at the point of eyktarstad. It would, in 
fact, be a coincidence difficult to credit if the sunset on 
a particular day corresponded with a mark arbitrarily 
fixed in Iceland for a wholly different purpose. The 
passage means, in fact, rather that the sun had not set 
at the point in question ; consequently to the south of 
this line we have an increasing probability for a con 
siderable distance. 

2. The scope of our inquiry is further restricted by 
the limits within which the wild vine is to be found. 
Omitting as irrelevant Jacques Carrier s discoveries of 
this plant in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, 1 this area may 
be said to begin with the Annapolis Basin in western 
Nova Scotia, excluding the rest of that peninsula, and 
from thence to follow the coast of New England as far 
south as we care to go. The discovery of the vine 
by the Norsemen is, I think, conclusively established. 
The name conferred on the country, which can be 
traced back to the very inception of written history, in 
itself goes far to prove it. It is corroborated by Adam 
of Bremen at a still earlier date, and it is plain from 
the apparently contemporary verses of Thorhall the 
Hunter that before the time of Karlsefni s voyage it 
had been alleged by some member of a prior expedi 
tion that the vine flourished in the new country. The 
corn is perhaps a little more doubtful, and its nature 
more controversial ; it is accordingly excluded from our 
cardinal points. 

3. The area explored must be divided by stretches 

1 This was written before the appearance of Professor Steensby s 
monograph, which is dealt with in a postscript (p. 237). 


of open sea into three independent land-forms. Dif 
ferent parts of one unbroken coastline will not suit the 
conditions required. All the accounts agree in 
deferring any coasting voyage to the point where 
Wineland is reached. 

4. Helluland, Markland, Wineland, Furdustrands, 
are all place-names drawn from natural characteristics. 
Whatever form their attributes may have taken, we 
are justified in treating Helluland as a land of stones, 
Markland as one of woods, Wineland as a grape- 
country, and Furdustrands as a coast with a beach of 
extraordinary length. The last-named was not an 
isolated point; the name survived into later Icelandic 
geography as that of a district comparable with the 
three main divisions of the country, though with most 
erroneous ideas as to its situation. Thus the geo 
graphical treatise known as Gripla : 

1 Furdustrands is the name of a land where there 
is hard frost, so that it is not habitable, so far as is 
known ; south of it is Helluland, &c. 

Its existence is corroborated by a reference in the 
very early verses ascribed to Thorhall the Hunter, 
and boil their whales on Furdustrand and if we 
accept the testimony of the saga as to the locality 
where these verses were composed, the beaches in 
question must have stretched at least from Keelness to 

5. Keelness, as a cape running in a more or less 
northerly direction, and constituting the first point 
touched at in Wineland, is established by the constant 
references to such a feature in both the independent 
versions of the story. The derivation of its name, in 

p 2 


spite of statements in the sagas, may well be treated 
as uncertain. Both Keelness and Bjarney (Bear 
Island) are names existing elsewhere, and what we 
are told of them may have been invented to account 
for them. They may, in fact, owe their names to 
a fancied resemblance to prototypes elsewhere. 

6. Straumsfjord, with its island and strong currents, 
is too circumstantially described to be an invention. 

7. The topographical characteristics of H6p, apart 
from the meaning of the name, which seems to be a 
land-locked tidal estuary, are confirmed by the evidence 
of both independent versions. We must therefore 
accept its main features extensive shoals, and a river 
running through a lake into the sea. 

These then are our points of departure. To these 
we may safely add, as a general rule, points as to which 
the independent versions agree. The savages, though 
equally well authenticated, and valuable as evidence 
of the general truthfulness of the story, are not in 
cluded, since, whatever the opinion we ourselves 
have formed, it may still be considered arguable by 
some that they were Eskimo. In any case they do not 
help us to fix any situation more closely than our other 
data. If they were Indians they might occur any 
where within the area of our inquiry, if Eskimo they 
cannot carry Wineland with them north of the 4Qth 
parallel, or away from the vines from which it derived 
its name. Their existence, if established, would only 
prove a more southerly migration of the Eskimo than 
has been hitherto generally accepted. 

The Labrador Theory. 

In spite of all this some writers have strenuously 


maintained that the full scope of all the voyages 
recorded should be confined to the Labrador coast. 
These are not generally to be found among those who 
have specialized on the subject. They are more usually 
those who, like Weise (Discoveries of America to 1525), 
deal with the matter incidentally, as part of a wider 
historical study. Their view, for the most part, seems 
to be connected with a sceptical attitude towards the 
sagas as a whole. It is, indeed, independent of the story 
except in so far as this supplies some corroboration of 
the bare fact that the Norsemen discovered America. 
Its advocates mainly argue on independent grounds 
that bold sailors like the Norsemen, having got so far 
as Greenland, must occasionally have been driven to 
Labrador. Nothing that is recorded of Wineland can 
really be brought into line with such theory, except 
possibly the skraelings, who are made the most of for 
that purpose with very inconclusive results. The 
eyktarstad observation (see previous chapter, p. 211), 
a most circumstantial point in the story, rules out the 
whole of Labrador. 

The climate, too, is altogether inappropriate, and, of 
course, the vines and corn become an absurdity. Apart 
from these things one may ask where, on the Labrador 
coast, we are to find three distinct land-forms, with 
wholly different characteristics, and separated from one 
another by days of open sea. 

It is true that a Boston botanist, Professor Fernald, 
has endeavoured to suggest that the vines, the corn, 
and the mosur wood were all products of quite a different 
order, which are to be found in Labrador. The vines, 
according to him, are the partridge-berry of Canada 
(the tyttebcer of Norway) ; the corn, lyme-grass (arundo 


arenaria) ; and the mosur a form of birch. If this were 
so it is difficult to understand why things perfectly well 
known in Iceland should have attracted so much 
attention, or have been described by totally new 
names ; or why a land containing nothing better than 
partridge-berries should have been called Wineland. 
As regards the vines, it may be further pointed out 
that Vine- wood (vinvi S) is more frequently mentioned 
in the sagas than grapes, which seems to rule out 
berries; lyme-grass (melur) is well known in Iceland, 
and a kind of flour was prepared from it in that country 
in quite recent times. 1 Lastly, the mosur wood was 
not anything .known to the Norsemen, for we are 
expressly told, in the episode of the Bremen merchant, 
that Karlsefni did not know what wood it was. 

Altogether this, the latest variant of the Labrador 
theory, must be discarded like its predecessors. 

Storms theory Labrador, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia. 

The theory most generally accepted at the present 
time is that put forward by Dr. Storm in Studier over 

Before making any independent analysis of the 
voyages, it will be useful to examine this theory, in the 
light of the principles just laid down. According 
to Storm, Helluland, Markland, and Wineland are 
Labrador, Newfoundland, and Nova Scotia respectively. 

The identification of Labrador with Helluland is 
based mainly upon the appearance of that barren coast, 
and the presence there of arctic foxes in large numbers. 
Certainly the little that we are told of Helluland suits 
Labrador very well, and the name conferred is sug- 

1 See Troil s Letters on Iceland, p. 105. 


gestive of the unflattering description of the country 
written in later times by Jacques Cartier : * It should 
not be named the New Land, but the land of stones 
and rocks, frightful and ill-shaped, for in all the said 
North coast I did not find a cartload of earth, though 
I landed in many places, in short, I deem rather than 
otherwise that it is the land God gave to Cain . 
Indeed, as I know from personal experience, the 
bald, glaciated rocks of the Labrador coast are a feature 
so striking that one must admit the probability of the 
country deriving a name from them. 

Yet it can hardly be disputed that at the date 
under consideration all that we are told of Helluland 
would suit Newfoundland as well as Labrador. No 
doubt at the present day the arctic fox is more sug 
gestive of Labrador, but in past times this animal seems 
to have been quite common in Newfoundland. Thus 
Antony Parkhurst writes to Hakluyt from that country 
in 1578, I had almost forgotten to speake of the 
plentie of wolves, and to show you that there be 
foxes, blacke, white and grey , and in another passage 
he speaks of the remarkable fearlessness of these 
foxes a trait more characteristic, even in a new 
country, of the arctic than the red species. The red 
fox, even where it is unaccustomed to the sight of man, 
is easily scared and habitually cunning, but I myself 
have found the arctic fox so fearless that it was 
practically impossible to keep it away from meat lying 
close to the camp. A handkerchief tied to the horn of 
a dead caribou was of no use even as a temporary check. 

Still, so far as all this goes, Helluland might well be 
in Labrador. But even if Helluland be Labrador, can 
we consider Newfoundland as Markland ? Accepting 


the only authority relied on by Storm and his school, 
we do not get any positive clue from the description 
given of the country. Much wood and many beasts 
is not distinctive, though, no doubt, it can be made 
to apply to Newfoundland as well as any other place. 
If we include the Flatey Book description, low-lying, 
with wide stretches of white sand, the slope from the 
sea was not abrupt , it is difficult any longer to look for 
Markland along the bold, rocky coasts of Newfound 
land. The description is certainly not characteristic. 
But setting the question of local resemblance apart, 
the identification is defended on the ground that 
one text gives for the direction from Helluland, they 
changed their course from south to south-east . This 
seems to me a most unreliable statement on which to 
found a definite and positive conclusion. In the first 
place, the change of course indicated is only given by 
Hauk ; the purer companion version states merely that 
the explorers had a north wind. Having regard to 
the fact that the word south-east (landsuSr) occurs in 
the very next sentence, an island lay to the south 
east there is here an obvious trap for the unwary 
copyist. Supposing the word in the archetype of the 
saga to have been originally south-west (utsuSr), 
a course more consistent with the general direction of 
Karlsefni s investigations, it is extremely likely to have 
been mistranscribed with a word so like it close at 
hand to catch the eye. Besides, the courses on the 
whole are so manifestly wrong, or at best vague 
approximations, that no one can be on sure ground 
who relies on them. (Cf. Chapter II, p. 131.) 

But, more than this, inherent probability is dead 
; against a south-easterly course between Helluland and 


Markland. The original discoverer, whoever he was, 
would never have sailed into the open sea south-east 
from Labrador. If return to Greenland was his object 
he would turn north-east ; if exploration, he would hug 
the coast. In the latter event he would either sail 
through the Strait of Belle Isle, which he clearly did 
not, or, regarding this as a mere inlet or fjord, would 
treat Newfoundland and Labrador as one country. If 
Karlsefni was navigating independently of the experi 
ence of a predecessor, he would have acted in the same 
way, and formed the same conclusion. If he were 
making- use of another explorer s sailing directions, he 
might, indeed, cut south-east from Labrador to Cape 
F reels, but he would do so with a knowledge of what 
lay before him, and would not therefore regard as a 
separate country what his predecessor had decided to 
be connected with Helluland. For these reasons I am 
disposed to reject the identification of Markland with 
Newfoundland, and to conclude that, whether the spot 
visited in Helluland lay in Newfoundland or in 
Labrador, the name must be regarded as including both 

Still more unsatisfactory is the identification of Nova 
Scotia with Wineland. Except in the Annapolis basin 
on the west, which does not suit the requirements of 
the saga, no wild grapes can be found there. The 
temperature falls to 20 below zero in winter ; frost 
generally continues from Christmas to April. Moreover, 
the description of the coast in the sagas, at all events 
in the neighbourhood of Keelness, the cape at its 
northern extremity, insists upon long beaches and sands, 
so remarkable in extent as to give rise to the name 
FurSustrandir (The Wonderful Beaches). Nova Scotia 


shows nothing of the kind. This is a circumstance of 
such importance that I shall return to it hereafter ; 
here it will be sufficient to state that all authorities, 
ancient and modern, agree in speaking of Nova Scotia 
as a rocky coast, with numerous indentations. Of the 
authorities who accept Storm s views in the main, 
Mr. Dieserud and Mr. Babcock have realized this diffi 
culty, though Mr. Babcock alone has made a serious 
attempt to face it. His solution may be left for later 
consideration ; here he shall merely be called as 
an unwilling witness against Nova Scotia. These 
people had swift ships. Beaches of ordinary length 
must also have been familiar to all of them . . . They 
would not marvel at a stretch of fifty miles . The 
palpable fact that Nova Scotia does not now supply 
these wonderstrands . . . seems to have compelled Dr. 
Storm to piece out this part of his theory with minor 
beaches that the Icelanders would have hardly glanced 
at as they swept by . The objection could not be more 
forcibly stated ; there let us leave it for the moment. 

Again : Karlsefni was exploring for three years. 
On more than one occasion he sailed * a long time . 
When the saga means a day or two, it says so ; nay, 
it frequently seems, if anything, to understate the time 
occupied. The extreme length of Nova Scotia is under 
350 miles ; two days and nights at 7 knots would about 
cover the distance. We need far more space than this 
theory affords ; in fact, it needs Procrustean methods to 
fit the Wineland of the sagas into the confines of Nova 
Scotia. To compress the whole scope of the exploration, 
from Keelness to H6p, as Mr. Dieserud does, into the 
coast between Cape Breton and Halifax, seems incon 
sistent both with the letter and the spirit of the story. 


Theories including New England. 

Members of the older school of Wineland investi 
gators are, at present, greatly discredited. Their 
enthusiasm outran all bounds of scientific caution, and 
they heaped ridicule on their theories by the attempt 
to support them with evidence which was largely pure 
rubbish. Alleged Norse remains in America have 
justly become a byword ; although Mr. Babcock thinks 
it worth while to review all that has been adduced of 
this sort of testimony, he adopts without hesitation the 
general verdict that, as was a priori probable, no 
vestiges of Norse visits remain to the present day. 
There can never have been more than the makeshifts 
of a transient encampment; perierunt etiam ruinae\ 
As a result of their ill-judged and credulous enthusiasm, 
no serious writer finds himself able to agree on a point 
of detail with Rafn or Horsford without a preliminary 

Yet there may be something to be said for the 
adoption of the main lines of their identification of the 
1 three lands : Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, and New 
England standing for Helluland, Markland, and Wine- 
land. It is the theory that leaps to the eye on looking 
at a map with a view to discovering three separate 
land-forms lying in the track of an exploration from 
Greenland or Iceland. It is, perhaps, at its weakest in 
its identification of Helluland, though, as has been 
shown, Newfoundland is not excluded by the conditions 
required. If, however, as I have suggested, Labrador 
and Newfoundland were likely to have been regarded 
as one and the same country, the identification of 
Markland and Wineland is not affected. 

The little we know of Markland fits Nova Scotia 


very well. Much wood and many beasts may, of 
course, be descriptive of Newfoundland and its caribou, 
but it would also be true of Nova Scotia. In the 
voyage of Mr. Hill of Reclrife in 1593, given in 
Hakluyt, a casual run ashore at Cape Breton is thus 
described ; * and as they viewed the country they saw 
divers beastes and foules, as black foxes, deere, otters, 
&c., &c . It is apparent that as late as the sixteenth 
century the fauna of Nova Scotia was sufficiently 
plentiful to strike a ship s crew as soon as they went 
ashore. The description of the country given in the 
Flatey Book, which is unlike anything Icelandic and 
consequently sounds genuine, will suit the southern 
extremity of Nova Scotia, a very likely landfall, much 
better than Newfoundland. It is low-lying and wooded, 
as Champlain found between Port Mouton and Cape 
Negro, the shores which I saw, up to that point, are 
very low, and covered with such wood as that seen at 
the Cap de la Heve . As to the white sand we may 
compare Hudson s description, The land by the water 
side is low land, and white sandie banks rising, full of 
little hills. 

While there is no sufficient extent of beach in Nova 
Scotia to serve for Furdustrands, there is enough sand 
as a local feature to suit the conditions required for 

In their identification of Wineland with New England 
rather than Nova Scotia, the older school are on even 
less questionable ground, however rash their specula 
tions on points of detail. Indeed, there seems to be 
a tendency at the present day, which is exemplified in 
the conclusions of Mr. Babcock, to depart so far from 
Storm s theories as to include a part of the New 


England coast-line. The addition of New England 
gets over the formidable difficulties before noticed, of 
want of space for the whole of Karlsefni s expedition, 
and almost entire absence of the wild vine. Whether 
or no we must also include Nova Scotia in the * third 
land visited by the Norsemen, we shall be well advised 
to look for Hop, at any rate, along the coast of the 
United States. Personally, I feel strongly that Nova 
Scotia is needed for Markland, and that Wineland must 
have been situated altogether to the west or south-west 
of it. 

Before entering upon the more detailed consideration 
of the voyages which forms the subject of the ensuing 
chapters, I would provisionally fix the broad lines of 
our research in accordance with the arguments adduced 
above. Helluland will then be in all probability New 
foundland and Labrador considered as one country, or 
perhaps Newfoundland alone ; Markland will be Nova 
Scotia ; and Wineland, the most important area in the 
inquiry, somewhere on the eastern seaboard of the 
United States. 

Postscript on two recent theories. 

It will be convenient here to deal with the theories 
advanced by two recent writers, whose works did not 
come to my notice until all the chapters of the present 
volume were written. These are : 

1. Professor W. Hovgaard s Voyages of the Norse 

men to America (New York, 1915), and 

2. Professor H. P. Steensby s The Norsemen s route 

from Greenland to Wineland (Copenhagen, 1918). 

Of the two treatises the second is on the whole the 


more revolutionary. For Professor Steensby, after 
locating both Helluland and Markland in Labrador, 
and identifying Bjarney with Newfoundland, brings his 
explorers into the gulf of St. Lawrence, with southern 
Labrador for Furdustrands, Keelness (after Furdu- 
strands) at Point Vaches by the mouth of the Saguenay, 
Straumsey at Hare Island in the St. Lawrence river, 
and Hop, still in the St. Lawrence, at St. Thomas on 
the southern side. 

Though entertaining widely different views as to 
the relative value of the sources Professor Steensby 
altogether rejecting the Flatey Book, whose authority 
the other author upholds both writers agree in certain 
respects which are somewhat novel. Both make 
Karlsefni s first landing-place, in Helluland, at a point 
in Labrador which is almost in the same latitude as 
southern Greenland, involving a course very far to the 
west of south ; and both insist on a coasting voyage 
throughout, with no intervals of open sea between the 
different lands visited. It seems to me that both these 
theories rest on a substitution of what their authors 
regard as inherent probabilities for the express language 
of the sagas. 

More especially is this the case with Professor 
Hovgaard s treatment of Bjarni. He brings him first 
to Newfoundland, and carries him back along the 
Labrador coast to Resolution Island off Baffin Land, 
in order to substantiate the ice {jokul, understood as 
glaciers) of the story. The effect of this treatment, 
when the author comes to consider Leifs and Thor- 
vald s voyages, is to leave an enormous unexplained 
stretch of coast between Helluland (Resolution Island) 
and Markland, which he agrees cannot be reasonably 


identified with any place north of Cape Sable in Nova 
Scotia. (As regards Leif s Markland and Wineland, 
indeed, Professor Hovgaard comes to substantially the 
same conclusions as myself.) But, considered apart 
from tliis difficulty, there are still formidable objections 
to this reconstruction of Bj ami s voyage. 

1. The text either expresses or implies an open sea 
passage out of sight of land between the various land 
falls. From the first to the second land this is implied 
in the statement after sailing two days they saw 
another (or the second) land*. From the second to 
the third land it is expressly stated that the ship sailed 
out to sea for three days, when they saw the third 
land . In the remaining case they turned the bows 
away from the land and held out to sea . 

2. The whole point of giving the direction of the 
wind (south-west) is to supply an indication of the 
course. To this course Professor Hovgaard pays no 
attention : from Resolution Island to Herjulfsness the 
bearing would actually be to the south of east, and the 
rest of the voyage is to the west of north. 

With regard to Karlsefni, Professor Hovgaard s 
treatment of his authorities is even more arbitrary. 
The previous expeditions, he agrees with me, had 
found Wineland on the coast of the United States. 
Now Wineland was Karlsefni s objective, and his 
expedition, if somewhat cumbrous, was more elabo 
rately equipped and took more time than any other. 
Yet, according to the writer under consideration, 
Karlsefni never got to Wineland at all. He first paid 
a visit to Baffin Land or northern Labrador, then 
coasted to Nain on the Labrador coast and conferred 
on that locality a name (Markland) already allocated 


by his predecessor to a spot far to the south, l and next, 
instead of following Leifs directions, went wandering 
into Sandwich Bay, which is here identified with 
Straumsfjord. True, as our author remarks, the winter 
at Straumsfjord is described as severe. Still, the 
expedition was evidently not frozen in, as it would 
have been in Labrador, for even at this time the 
Norsemen hoped for fishing or jetsam , and actually 
acquired a stranded whale. Captain Cartwright, who 
settled in this region, thus describes the winter con 
ditions : 

Ascend yon Mountain s top ; extend your view 
O er Neptune s trackless Empire, nor will you, 
In all his vast Domain, an Opening have, 
Where foams the Billow, or where heaves the Wave. 
A dreary Desart all, of Ice and Snow. 

In this spot, according to Professor Hovgaard, 
maddened by mosquitoes in the summer, and hopelessly 
frozen in during a long winter, the experienced Karlsefni, 
far north of his objective, established his principal base. 
And in all the three years of his exploration, according 
to the same author, Karlsefni never penetrated farther 
than a Hop in Newfoundland, having failed to reach 
even the Markland of his predecessor. The theory in 
fact involves a wholesale readjustment and arbitrary 
selection of the available material which must be read 
to be appreciated. Of course Karlsefni found no vines 
or corn, and the sands of Furdustrands are con 
spicuously absent. 

1 Though there are woods at Nain, and were formerly more, 
it must be remembered that there is an intricate barrier of sterile 
islands between the coast and the open sea, in and about these 


The minor point that this theory requires a coasting 
voyage throughout may now be considered in conjunc 
tion with Professor Steensby s conclusions. I do not 
lay much stress on the evidence of the old maps, dealt 
with later on in Chapter IX, though they show that there 
was always understood to be open sea between the 
three principal lands . The Icelandic geography 
referred to in the same chapter (p. 287) likewise assumes 
sea at any rate between Markland and Wineland. I 
would ask the impartial reader to refer to the text, and 
see whether it conveys to him any idea of a coasting 
voyage until Keelness is reached, except in one case 
in Hauk s version, which is at variance with the purer 
language of Eric s Saga. Let him further decide 
whether, on a dispassionate reading of the evidence, 
Helluland, Markland, and Wineland can be treated as 
parts of one and the same unbroken coastline. 

Professor Steensby (p. 32) argues that the Norsemen 
habitually coasted on approaching land, saying, more- 
ever, This applies in a quite especial degree when new 
land was in question. I should have thought it more 
true to say that the Norsemen were the pioneers of 
open-sea navigation, and the necessity for keeping 
plenty of sea-room would be particularly cogent in the 
case of a coast whose dangers were quite unknown. 
Moreover, according to all accounts, the first discovery 
was accidental, and open sea might well have been 
crossed in the endeavour to get back to Greenland, as 
we are told in the case of Bjarni : if this were so, 
subsequent expeditions would keep as far as possible 
to the track of their predecessors up to the point when 
they arrived at the country (Wineland) which alone 
was considered desirable to visit and explore. Along 


the shores of Wineland they would undoubtedly coast, 
and this is exactly what we are told in the sagas. 

I will not dwell on the modification of the courses 
given, as this is not a point upon which much reliance 
can, in the circumstances, be placed. The statement, 
however, of the saga, that Helluland lay south of 
Greenland, is corroborated by the old Icelandic geo 
graphy (see,/^/ Chapter I X, p. 287), and in any case the 
ultimate objective lay so far to the south that a ship, 
limited in storage capacity, would naturally press in 
that direction as quickly as possible. As I shall have 
occasion to point out later (Chapter VIII, p. 262), a ship 
coasting Labrador in the early summer would be liable 
to be tremendously delayed by ice, of which we find no 
mention, apart from other considerations, in thereport of 
Karlsefni s expedition. If the manipulation of the courses 
stood alone, however, this point would hardly be 

But once we are in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, the 
objections to this theory are formidable indeed. In the 
first place, Professor Steensby is compelled to keep 
Karlsefni in Straumsfjord (the St. Lawrence) through 
out, and to make Hop a point actually in the fjord. 
This is quite inconsistent with our authority.- The 
climatic conditions of Straumsfjord and Hop appear to 
have been markedly different, and the language every 
where implies that it was necessary to leave the one 
place to reach the other. 

Secondly, the author under consideration is forced 
to place Keelness after Furdustrands and close to the 
Straumsfjord base. The saga, however, before men 
tioning Furdustrands, states there was a cape (Keel- 
ness) where they arrived , i, e. it was the first point 


sighted after leaving Markland. Again, in reverse 
order from Straumsfjord, * Thorhall wished to go north 
by Furdustrands and past Keelness. Straumsey is 
identified with Hare Island, which even at the present 
day is described as densely wooded , an unlikely place, 
one would think, for quantities of breeding sea-fowl, 
and ill-adapted as a pasture land for cattle. Finally, 
Professor Steensby s Hop , at St. Thomas, faces north, 
which is in conflict with the saga, where we are told 
more than once that the Sknelings came in from the 
south. From the situation of Karlsefni s camp by the 
lake it is clear that the arrival of the savages could 
only have been perceived after they had entered the 
estuary, which must accordingly, if the authority is to 
be trusted, have faced south rather than north. 

St. Thomas, being slightly south of the 47th parallel, 
is within the possible limits of the eyktarstad observa 
tion. This, however, is only true if we understand 
that the sun set at that precise point on the day in 
question. As I have elsewhere pointed out, it would 
be too strange a coincidence to be readily accepted if 
the Norsemen settled at a spot where the sun, exactly 
on the shortest day of the year, covered at the very 
moment of setting one of the eight marks fixed in a 
totally different latitude for the purpose of determining 
three-hour intervals. We are therefore forced to the 
conclusion that the sun had not set at the moment in 
question, but was up at this point so as to be capable 
of being used. This being so, a latitude far south of 
the computed limit is indicated, and, as regards this 
observation, Professor Steensby s H6p is within an 
area too near this limit to be at all probable. 

Q 2 


Bjarni Herjulfson. 

As has been stated in a former chapter, poor Bjarni 
has been severely handled by Storm and most of the 
accepted authorities. The case for and against his 
voyage has been already dealt with, and it is hoped 
that some readers may have been persuaded that 
Bjarni has a solid claim to be regarded as the first 
seaman who sighted American shores. But, whether 
or no the personal claims of Bjarni can be substantiated, 
I submit that we have here a very clear and correct 
account of the way in which America was discovered, 
whether by Bjarni or another. The first discovery 
must necessarily have been accidental, and must 
almost certainly have been, as stated of Bjarni, from 
south to north, as subsequent exploration in a southerly 
direction would not otherwise have been encouraged. 
The northern part of America offered few attractions to 
the practical minds of early explorers, whose criterion 
was that it would be a profitable country to visit ; 
Labrador or Newfoundland from the sea would seem 
at first sight to deserve Bjarni s epithet ogagnvaenligt 
good-for-nothing. Storm-driven mariners, with stores 
running short, would hardly have pursued investigations 
from north to south, while in the reverse direction 
discovery was forced upon them by circumstances, and 
their experience might well prompt further exploration 

B J A R N I 245 

on the part of the inhabitants of Greenland. Whatever 
criticisms have been passed upon Bj ami s voyage by 
those who are unable to bring it into line with their 
theories, it seems to me that if all the rest of our 
material had been destroyed, this voyage would be 
regarded as in itself sufficient to substantiate the fact 
of Norse discovery. 

Slight and sketchy as it is, it presents fewer real 
difficulties than any other. The chronicler, like his 
hero, was not interested in the lands seen, but in the 
adventures of the ship, and both courses and distances 
are given with perhaps greater precision and accuracy 
than any others in these sagas. Probably this arises 
from the fact that but few copies were ever made of 
this narrative. It was, as has been already hinted, 
of little interest to the general reader of a pre-Columbian 
age ; it could appeal only to sailors and navigators, 
who would be more interested in the accurate preser 
vation of the data supplied by it than would a mere 
scribe, wholly ignorant or misinformed as to the 
actual topographical details. 

It is worth while noticing how full the narrative is 
of nautical phraseology and details of interest to sailors 
only. This confirms one s impression of its genuine 
ness, as of course the story, if true, must originally 
have been told by Bjarni or one of his sailors. The 
lowering and hoisting of sails, the necessity for reefing 
on the voyage home, together with such expressions 
as distinguish the airts or, as in our translation, * get 
their bearings , * left the land to port and let the sheet 
turn towards it , * turned the bows from the land , the 
land was laid , i.e. lost below the horizon (landit var 
vattnat), give this part of the story an extremely 

246 T H E V O Y A G E S 

nautical colour, while they add little to the general 
interest of the tale. Moreover we get course and 
distance in the greatest detail, except during the period 
I /( of fog, when the sailors themselves could have had no 
knowledge of what was happening. 

The simplest way of dealing with this voyage is to 
plot it backwards from Greenland. The outward 
journey is but vaguely indicated, as that of a ship 
struggling unsuccessfully on a westerly course against 
northerly gales, and confused by fogs and many days 
of drifting. The ship was presumably provisioned for 
a dangerous voyage into unknown seas, yet appears to 
have been running short of water and other necessaries 
before the end ; one is consequently justified in assuming 
a really long period for the duration of these adverse 
influences. The voyage home is, however, recorded 
with the utmost precision. 

Taking the data arrived at in Chapter V for the 
length of a daegr sigling , we may plot the distance 
represented by this unit at about 150 miles. The 
wind, we are told, was south-west. Plot from 
Herjulfsness (Sermesok) in the south of Greenland 
four dsegr units in a south-westerly direction and 
then draw a land-form which will serve for the island 
which was the third land seen, follow its coast to 
a point further south, to cover the coasting voyage 
described, then plot five more dsegr units south-west. 
Lastly mark land on the course at the end of the five 
days and also two days from the end. The result 
will be as shown on the shaded portions of the 
sketch. These indications are quite near enough 
to the truth to show pretty conclusively that the 
lands were the Barnstable peninsula (Massachusetts), 



Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland respectively. It is 
true that if these lands are restored to their correct 
positions on the map, the courses are only roughly 
north-east, and the distance from Newfoundland to 
Greenland is lengthened, but during the last part of 


the voyage it must be remembered that the wind was 
much stronger, and the distance between either Cape 
Freels or Cape St. John in Newfoundland and 
Sermesok (Herjulfsness) in Greenland is under 720 
miles, and could easily be covered in four days and 
nights under conditions as favourable as those of 

248 T H E V O Y A G E S 

Thorar Nefjolfson s voyage to Iceland discussed in 
Chapter V. The whole account so far is quite consis 
tent and probable. 

The problem may now be tackled in a different way. 
Bjarni, before reaching Greenland, is met by a strong 
northerly gale. He struggles against it for some time, 
and, delaying too long the moment for heaving to, is 
forced to run before the wind. He is driven to the 
Newfoundland Banks, where he runs into fog, and 
lowering sail, as we are told he did, he drifts for some 
time. The set of the current is in the direction of 
Cape Cod ; the wind, working round with the sun as 
the weather improved, would tend to drive him in the 
same direction. There is accordingly no difficulty in 
supposing him to have first sighted land somewhere 
on the Barnstable peninsula in the neighbourhood of 
Cape Cod. The description given of this land, while 
not distinctive, is certainly not inconsistent with the 
conclusion arrived at. 

Now Bjarni is entirely taken up with the idea of 
getting back to Greenland. Where is he ? He has 
been sailing for a long time in an attempt to get 
westward ; he is probably to the west of his destination. 
Moreover there is an unknown shore to the :west or 
north of him, to which he must give a wide berth. 
The visible change in the altitude of the Pole-star or 
the mid-day sun, and the difference in the length of 
the day, are data which show an experienced sailor 
that he is a long way too far south. He must get away 
from the unknown coast into the open sea, and he 
must go east and north. Sailing therefore on a course 
slightly to the north of east, he sights in two days 
another land, the south-western projection of Nova 

B J A R N I 249 

Scotia, low-lying, and covered with wood. This is 
not the least like Greenland : he sails away again on 
the same course. The shore, trending here to the 
northward, sinks out of sight, but after about 500 
miles of open sea covered in three daegr he sights 
some part of the south coast of the Avalon peninsula 
of Newfoundland. It is a bleak-looking coast, and 
there are icebergs about ; moreover, though Bj ami s 
reckoning still makes him too far south, the crew have 
already been grumbling, and it must be proved to their 
satisfaction that this is not Greenland. As regards 
the ice, I am of course aware that the saga uses the 
word jokul , which suggests glaciers, and it may well 
be that this is an embroidery on the part of the author, 
accustomed to associate glaciers with any desolate 
landscape. Jokul , however, can also mean merely 
ice, and is so used in Gretti s Saga and elsewhere. 
Icebergs, according to the King s Mirror, were known 
to Greenlanders as falljoklar \ There may be some 
confusion here. Still, there would be bergs about, and 
the appearance of the country would be more Arctic ; 
the place had better be explored a bit. Accordingly 
Bjarni follows the coast till he convinces himself and 
his crew that this place is merely an island. Probably 
he came to this conclusion on rounding the Avalon 
peninsula ; possibly he sailed as far as Cape Freels or 
slightly further. It is less likely that he sailed through 
the Strait of Belle Isle, and so conclusively demon 
strated the insular character of Newfoundland, for, if 
so, he could hardly have avoided sighting the Labra 
dor coast, which he evidently never saw. That the 
Norsemen, without carrying their investigation so far, 
should have come to the conclusion that what they 


saw was an island is not in the least remarkable, when 
it is remembered that for nearly 100 years after its 
rediscovery Newfoundland was regarded, owing to the 
broken and indented character of its coastline, as an 
archipelago, and is so depicted on the earlier charts. 1 

Anyhow, Bjarni came to the conclusion that this 
third land was an island. There is nothing con 
ventional in the statement ; it is not suggested of the 
other lands, and the fact that the island comes into the 
story in its proper place is a strong confirmation of its 
accuracy. Having satisfied himself and his crew that 
this was not Greenland, Bjarni could fall back with 
renewed confidence on his own reckoning, and so reach 
his destination. That he did so with speed and pre 
cision might give cause for surprise, were there not 
many well-authenticated instances in Icelandic litera 
ture of men who, after drifting about, the sport of 
adverse winds and fogs for a long time, retained to the 
last sufficient knowledge of their position to enable 
them to return home. It was a creditable feat of 
seamanship, and we may leave Bjarni with a greater 
feeling of respect than his contemporaries seem to have 
felt for him, whatever his shortcomings as an explorer 
may have been. One point alone in Bj ami s voyage 
may at first sight be regarded with suspicion. This is 
the exact correspondence between the number of days 
sailed and the number of the land reached. They sail 
two days to the second land, three to the third, and 
four to the fourth. As has been shown, however, in 
working out the voyage, this is not an impossible 

1 Cf. Hakluyt, A brief e relation of the New found lande : That 
which we doe call the New found lande ... is an iland, or rather, 
after the opinion of some, it consisteth of sundry ilands and broken 

B J A R N I 251 

coincidence. I think it is not without importance to 
note that what is called the fourth land is not a land 
ejusdem generis with the others, but is Bjarni s original 
objective, Greenland, which would naturally be so 
called. This looks to me rather as if the coincidence 
above referred to was noted, and used as a memoria 
technical for the time occupied on the voyage. 


Leifs voyage may be dealt with shortly. The 
description of Helluland is open to the suspicion that 
it has been coloured by the imagination of the saga- 
writer. Snowy hills in Labrador may account for the 
great glaciers , but it looks like a feature borrowed 
from Greenland to emphasize the forbidding character 
of the landscape. The reason given for the name, 
Helluland, may easily be founded upon the name itself. 
However, as stated in the preceding chapter, it does 
not much matter whether the landfall in Helluland was 
Labrador or Newfoundland, as, before the discovery 
of the Strait of Belle Isle, both would presumably 
be regarded as one country by an explorer coasting 
south. Leifs Markland, as already, suggested (p. 232) 
sounds much more like Nova Scotia than New 

Now as to Wineland. The Flatey Book tells us 
that Leif, having arrived on the shores of Wineland, 
landed at once, and conducted no further exploration, 
except in the immediate vicinity. The passage record 
ing the eagerness of the men to get to shore is very 
convincing, and we are probably justified in accepting 
it. In any case we have no evidence that Leifs 
expedition proceeded further along the coast of 


Wineland after his arrival. In fact, the statement that 
it did not is to some extent confirmed by the opinion, 
attributed to Thorvald, that the new country had been 
insufficiently explored ; it is also borne out by the 
circumstance that Karlsefni and his crew manifestly 
expected to find the locality of Leif s camp somewhere 
in the neighbourhood of Keelness, where they first 
arrived, but were uncertain as to which side of this 
promontory it was situated. (See account of Karlsefni s 
voyage in the Saga of Eric the Red.) We are told 

! that Karlsefni divided his forces, one party sailing 
north of Keelness while the other proceeded in the 
opposite direction. Clearly therefore Keelness, as the 
point of departure selected, was supposed to be in 
the neighbourhood of Leif s landfall, and this confirms 
the view indicated by the Flatey Book that Leif stayed 
at a point near that first sighted in Wineland. 

It is difficult therefore to accept Mr. Babcock s view 
that Leif conducted a long coasting voyage along the 
shores of the United States ; at least it may be said 
that there is no positive evidence to support such 
a theory. 

So far we may treat the Flatey account as correct. 
The report brought home by Leif, however, seems to 
have been more concerned with the discoveries made 
on land than with the details of the coast in the neigh 
bourhood of his camp. Hence, as has been pointed 

1 out earlier, the Flatey Book, which erroneously supposed 
all landfalls in Wineland to be the same, proceeds to 
draw the description required from some abridged 
account of Karlsefni s voyage. H6p is quite clearly 
indicated, and this place we know was only reached by 
Karlsefni after a long coasting voyage. 

L E I F 253 

When we come to the consideration of the situation 
of Hop, in connexion with Karlsefni s expedition (see 
next chapter), we shall, I think, be perfectly justified in 
supplementing the description of this place from what 
we are told of Leifs landfall. The two places are 
obviously identical. But the fact that this is the case 
puts a full stop to any attempt to identify Leifs camp 
in Wineland. If, as I think is the case, Thorvald s 
voyage took place as narrated in the Flatey Book, it 
may throw some light on his predecessor s discoveries, 
since Thorvald, having the benefit of his brother s 
advice, and probably several members of the same 
crew, would be very likely to arrive at the same 
destination. If so, as will be seen later, some place in 
the neighbourhood of Chatham harbour on the heel 
of the Barnstable peninsula seems indicated. But of 
course such an identification involves a good deal 
of conjecture. 

A word may be said here as to the account given of 
the discovery of the vines, which has been severely 
criticized. It may well have been touched up, but the 
very ignorance of the nature of vines which is attributed 
to the saga-writer makes part of the story inherently 
probable. The Greenlanders knew nothing of vines, 
and might not have recognized them on sight. If, on 
the other hand, they had with them a native of a wine 
country, the discovery is explained. This point has 
impressed Neckel, who goes so far as to say that 
Icelanders or Greenlanders of the period would 
certainly not have recognized grapes on seeing them. 
Preferring H auk s version to that of the Flatey 
Book, he is forced to the hypothesis that the 
original discoverer was the priest who accompanied 

254 T H E V O Y A G E S 

Leif on his missionary journey, and who may have 
been a foreigner from a wine country, though as Olaf 
drew largely for such men on the British Isles, Neckel s 
conjecture is rather a wild one. Now the difficulty is 
one which may strike a modern commentator, though 
it does not seem to have troubled many of them, but 
it does not appear to me at all likely that a writer of 
the saga period considered the question so deeply as 
to invent a German to account for the discovery. 
Tyrker in fact meets a difficulty which is only apparent 
to a critical type of mind not then in existence. 
Tyrker is therefore probable ; in any case such a man 
was better qualified than half-naked Scots like Hake 
and Hekja, whose forte was rather activity than 

As to Tyrker s drunkenness, the circumstance that 
he spoke German, which happened to be his native 
tongue, would not perhaps be considered conclusive at 
Bow Street, yet possibly the saga-writer may have 
meant to indicate intoxication. Nor is such intoxica 
tion necessarily a figment of the historian. We 
must remember that Thorhall the Hunter, as one 
gathers from his satiric verses, had evidently been 
promised a drink in Wineland, and it therefore seems 
likely that some crude sort of wine was actually 
made. This again calls for the presence of someone 
with experience of wine-making, an art for which 
the priest, one would think, would possess neither 
the capacity nor the inclination. The task would 
not, however, be difficult. As Mr. Babcock has 
reminded us (p. 93), the His tor ie of Travaile into 
Virginia asserts that at a later date twenty gallons 
at one time have sometimes been made, without any 

L E I F 255 

other help than crushing the grapes in the hand, which 
letting to settle five or six days hath in the drawing 
forth proved strong and heady. In further support of 
the theory that wine was made, one may refer to the 
words of Adam of Bremen, producing the best 
wine. Who more likely to have tried the method 
alluded to above than-Tyrker of the vineyards ? And 
he may well have kept the experiment dark till he had 
put his brew to a practical test. 

But none of this really matters ; the bare fact of the 
discovery of grapes, which is abundantly corroborated, 
is the important thing. 


Whether or no Thorvald Ericson was the leader of 
an independent expedition, as stated in the Flatey 
Book, or a companion of Karlsefni, as the rival versions 
make him, there can be no doubt that the voyage on 
which he met with his death is described in all the 
accounts in language which shows substantial agree 
ment as to the topographical facts. It is therefore 
possible, and even advisable, to deal with Thorvald s 
explorations as if no question of their connexion with 
Karlsefni s expedition had in fact arisen. 

Thorvald s base appears to have been situated on 
a coast facing approximately south, along which, we 
are told, two voyages of exploration were conducted. 
The first of these, according to the Flatey Book, was 
carried out in a small boat, and lay to the west of the 
camp. The expression used, fyrir vestan landit , 
might also be understood to mean off or along a coast 
facing west, but this interpretation is excluded by the 
fact that an island lying to the west (vestarliga) was 


visited, and also by the absence of any coast fulfilling 
the required conditions on the eastern seaboard of 
America, except the Nova Scotian border of the Bay 
of Fundy. This last does not suit in any way, for we 
are told there were many islands and -many shoals , 
a circumstantial statement unlikely to have been in 
vented, and therefore reliable. Very shallow water 
indeed is indicated in a report derived from persons 
in a small boat, whose draught must have been in 
significant. Now the name Bay of Fundy is said to 
be a corruption of Baya Fonda (deep bay), and the 
details given in the Coast Pilot confirm the appro 
priateness of such a name. Champlain moreover 
states explicitly, on passing Cape Fourchu northwards, 
that * this coast is clear, without islands, rocks or shoals ; 
so that in our judgment vessels can securely go there. 

The only other feature in the description of the 
saga, * well-wooded sandy shores , is hardly more appro 
priate to a coast which is mainly bold and rocky. 

We are safe, then, in assuming a starting-point on 
a coast facing south. To the east of the base the land 
must soon have turned towards the north, to fulfil the 
conditions required by Thorvald s second voyage. So 
far there are two possibilities presented by the 
narrative : the south coast of Nova Scotia, and that 
of the United States to the west of Cape Cod. The 
latter exactly fulfils the conditions demanded by the 
first or westerly voyage. In the words of the Coast 
Pilot, from the southern and principal entrance to 
Chatham harbour, the coast is low and sandy, with 
well-wooded hills in the background, taking a generally 
westward direction! It is, as the chart shows, a mass 
of shoals, and there are a considerable number of quite 



important islands, including Nantucket, Martha s Vine 
yard, and the Elizabeth Islands, in the vicinity. In fact 
it would be hard to find a place more accurately fitting 
the description given. The voyage, being conducted 


in a small boat, was probably not a very long one. 

As regards Nova Scotia, there are along this coast 
also many islands and a considerable number of shoals, 
but the coast itself, treated as a whole, is decidedly less 
appropriate to the description in the saga. 

In considering Thorvald s final voyage, we may take 
the descriptions of both authorities together. We 


should aim, in fact, at finding a locality embodying the 
highest common factor of both versions. To the point 
of Keelness both stories agree, the Flatey version 
saying that Thorvald sailed * fyrir austan , i. e. either 
turned eastward from his camp or followed an 
eastward-facing coastline. Both may be true if we 
consider the starting-point to have lain somewhere 
on the heel of the Barnstable peninsula. Thorvald 
would first turn east and then follow the eastern coast 
line of Cape Cod, to reach * the more northerly part of 
the country which, we are told, was his next objective. 
Eric s Saga says they sailed north to Keelness, which 
comes to the same thing. Then, according to the 
Flatey version, they were wrecked on the point of Keel- 
ness, and, after a long stay to carry out the necessary 
repairs, they turned eastward into a closely adjacent 
fjord. The fact that it was closely adjacent is im 
portant. Eric s Saga states that on rounding Keelness 
they bore along to the west of it, which, as Dieserud 
points out though with a different intention should be 
taken with the phrase which follows, nordr aptr (back 
north), and therefore means a voyage southwards along 
the west coast of the promontory, not a voyage west 
wards. Apart from the clue given by the expression 
back north , the Icelandic would bear either inter 

The same version of the narrative then mentions 
that they came to a river flowing from east to west, 
and lay by its southern bank. Now, if we consider 
Keelness to be Cape Cod, both versions are roughly 
correct, though the Flatey Book is slightly more so 
than Eric s Saga. From the extreme point of Cape 
Cod the course would lie eastward to the mouth of the 


Pamet river, which flows westward, but, broadly speak 
ing, the expedition would be following the west coast 
of the peninsula. In the time of the Pilgrim Fathers 
all this, coast was densely wooded. As to its being 
a beautiful spot for a home, this may have been 
Thorvald s opinion, or an embellishment by the story 
teller, who has apparently introduced some fictitious 
touches here of bodings and warnings. Such a detail 
need not trouble us. The only objection to the theory 
is that the Saga of Eric the Red says that they had 
sailed a long time ; if this, however, means from 
Straumsfjord and not merely from Keelness, it may 
well be literally true. 

The alternative theory, which carries this voyage 
round Cape Breton Island, in addition to difficulties 
about the scenery, and such objections as apply to 
Nova Scotia generally, is open to the criticism that it 
has altogether to reject the easterly course from the 
end of the promontory which is mentioned in the 
Flatey Book. As a rule, in spite of all that is alleged 
by Storm, the Flatey version, as I have endeavoured 
to show, is more accurate in its courses than the 
alternative record ; the objection, however, if it stood 
alone, would no doubt be of small weight. The re 
jection of the Nova Scotia theory, in fact, involves 
consideration of the arguments adduced against it 
throughout, rather than those which apply to this 
particular point. 

It is perhaps worth while to draw attention here 
to the inconsistency with which the uniped episode is 
interpolated. The explorers are by the southern bank 
of a river running from east to west. The uniped 
comes from the north, and retires in that direction. 

R 2 


Consequently the obstacle of a navigable river-mouth 
lies between this creature and the pursuit which we 
are told, both in the text and the incorporated verses, 
immediately took place. The fact appears to be that 
the river is part of one story (Thorvald s) and the uniped 
belongs to another, which some one has tried to edit 
into conformity, with but slender success. 

There seems, in fact, to be a double interpolation 
here. After Karlsefni has been brought to Straumsfjord 
with the intention of returning home, the author feels 
that it is his last chance of working in any odd scraps 
which he has collected from various sources. Hence, 
having a description of the death of a son of Eric not 
previously or otherwise known to him, which seems to 
have occurred in Wineland, he attributes it to Karlsefni s 
expedition, and combines it with a separate anecdote, 
properly belonging to Karlsefni but no part of the 
main saga which refers to the pursuit of a supposed 
uniped. Possibly the sole source referring to the 
uniped on which the author s imagination worked was 
the verse incorporated here. 

The apparently corrupt but much-discussed passage 
about the mountains at Hop and those seen elsewhere 
will be dealt with later on : it is, I believe, part of the 
original Karlsefni matter, and has no relation to the 
voyage of Thorvald. (See next chapter, p. 277.) 



As has been pointed out in the chapter on the Flatey 
Book (p. 137), the expedition of Thorfin Karlsefni must 
have followed those of Leif and the rest of Eric s 
family at a considerable interval of time. Though 
this has not been generally realized, it is not a mere 
matter of opinion, but rests upon cogent and conclusive 
evidence when once the known points of chronology 
are closely examined. Apart from this, it is evident 
on consideration that it would involve a very curious 
coincidence if Karlsefni arrived in Greenland exactly 
at the time when the efforts of Eric s sons at explora 
tion were exhausted. It is therefore far more unlikely 
in the case of Karlsefni than in that of Thorvald, 
assuming the latter to have conducted an independent 
expedition, that the landfalls were the same as those 
made by Leif. If we accept Hauk s- version of the 
story, Leif s voyage took place in A.D. 1000, and in 
any case it cannot have been many years later, while 
1 020 is as early as we can reasonably place Karlsefni s 
expedition. For this reason, apart from any others, 
it is right to assign to this voyage a separate chapter 
and independent consideration. 

Greenland to Helluland. 

Karlsefni s starting-point, we are told, was not from 
the neighbourhood of Eric s home at Brattahlid, but 


from the Western Settlement (Godthaab), and the 
Bear Islands . The latter name was apparently 
applied to Disko, far to the northward, but it is difficult 
to suppose that Thorfin sailed so far in the opposite 
direction to his objective. It is more probable that 
the name refers to some islands in the immediate 
neighbourhood of Godthaab. One has only to remem 
ber the frequent occurrence of such local names as 
Bj0rnuren, Bj0rnlien, in Norway, to realize that nomen 
clature of this character is often repeated, indeed one 
need not go outside this saga for an instance of such 
a repetition (in the neighbourhood of Markland). 

Possibly the Western Settlement was visited for 
recruiting purposes. The visitors from Iceland, as we 
are told, only accounted for 80 men out of the 160 
eventually taking part in the expedition ; the original 
Icelandic crews, after a winter in Greenland, would 
probably need to be brought up to strength, and the 
better part of 100 volunteers must have been difficult to 
collect in so small a colony. 1 Mr. Babcock, p. 97, seems 
to think that the shortest way to Labrador via the 
north was already known in Greenland, and he also, 
curiously enough, considers it the safest route. On 
the question of danger there is room for difference of 
opinion, but it may be pointed out that progress from 
north to south or vice versa is frequently impeded by 
ice till a late date in the summer. The very slow 
Moravian mission ship, sailing from London, often 
reaches the stations on the Labrador coast before the 
Newfoundland steamer service, since, sailing from east 
to west, she travels across instead of along the ice- 

1 It is also possible, as Mr. Hovgaard suggests, that Karlsefni had 
to sail north to penetrate the ice round the coast. 


barrier. Karlsefni s ultimate and principal objective / 
being to the south, he would hardly have deliberately 
undertaken so dangerous, unexplored, and roundabout 
a course, even if he had known of the possibility, which 
seems extremely doubtful. As a basis for calculation 
we may therefore safely put the point of departure 
in the neighbourhood of Godthaab. 

From this point we are told that the expedition 
sailed for two days with a north wind, i. e. in a southerly 
direction. It should be pointed out that the map 
occurring opposite page 106 of Mr. Babcock s treatise 
is very misleading as to the courses which it suggests. 
It meridians, and is tilted westward at an 
angle of nearly 40 degrees, with the result that the 
Western Settlement of Greenland is brought almost 
exactly north of the neighbourhood of Nain on the Lab 
rador coast, which is the point selected by the author 
for Karlsefni s landfall in Helluland. As a matter of 
fact there are not far short of 10 degrees of longitude 
between the two places, and the course between them 
is very far to the west of south. Mr. Babcock appears 
to have chosen this point on the coast of Labrador in 
order to retain the statement made as to the voyage 
having occupied but two days. The distance being 
about 450 miles, the author is compelled to assume 
a speed of nearly ten miles an hour, in support of which 
he cites statistics as to the speed of yachts and other 
modern sailing vessels. Now, as we have seen in 
Chapter V, this seems far beyond the capacity of ancient 
Icelandic ships, and, since on this point we have defi 
nite evidence, it is impossible that the time can have 
been correctly stated, even if we suppose the very 
nearest point on the Labrador coast to have been the 


land first sighted. It is moreover difficult to suppose 
that Karlsefni made the nearest point ; he had no clue 
to its position, and his ultimate objective, for which he 
had a guide in the directions of his predecessor, Leif, 
lay far to the south. 

Nor is a long coasting voyage along the shores of 
Helluland in any way suggested by the text ; in fact 
it is inconsistent with it. In the summer, or still more 
in the spring, Karlsefni would almost certainly have 
been greatly impeded by ice off the Labrador coast, 
but no mention is made of any such feature. We must 
therefore either abandon the figure, two days, alto 
gether, which having regard to its repetition later 
on is possibly the right course, or we must substitute 
some plausible alternative. Reeves suggests sjau 
(seven) for tvau (two), but in the manuscripts numbers 
seem to be usually given in figures. A possible amend 
ment would be five (u), as, if the light stroke connecting 
the verticals in writing this figure had become erased 
by time, ti and II would be almost identical in Icelandic 
manuscript. This would be equivalent to 750 miles 
at average speeds, and would bring land more nearly 
to the south of the starting-point well within range. 1 
It is, however, safer on the whole to decide that we 
have no reliable guide to the distance. 

The question of the situation of Karlsefni s landfall 
in Helluland has been already discussed (Chapter VI, 
p. 230), and we can only adhere to the conclusion there 
arrived at, viz. that there is a slight balance of pro 
bability in favour of Labrador as against Newfoundland, 
but that both countries would almost certainly have 

1 Since writing this, I find that the same emendation has been 
suggested by Fmnur J6nsson. 


been assumed to be one and the same. Anyone who 
doubts this probability has only to look at the maps 
reproduced on p. 364 of vol. 2 of Dr. Nansen s In 
Northern Mists, where the same confusion is shown 
to have been made in the case of Corte Real. 

Markland and Bjarney. 

The question of Markland has also been treated at 
an earlier stage, and the improbability of the south 
easterly course on which the identification of this country 
with Newfoundland mainly depends has been pointed 
out. Whatever theories we adopt as to the situation 
of the various lands, it is clear that the courses given 
in the Saga of Eric the Red and Hauk s Book must at 
some point be abandoned. For example, Storm identi 
fies the coast of Nova Scotia with that followed by 
Karlsefni after arrival at Keelness. The lie of this 
coast is a great deal nearer west than south, which is 
the direction given, and the same applies to the coast 
of New England after passing Cape Cod, which seems 
to be the alternative. A uniform southerly course is 
excluded. Again, two days of open sea from New 
foundland to Cape Breton, or from Cape Sable to Cape 
Cod, especially the former, would indicate a westerly 
rather than a southerly course for the expedition. If, on 
the other hand, we assume the explorers to have coasted 
Newfoundland to Cape Ray, the course to Nova Scotia 
is corrected at the expense of the distance. The upshot 
of all this is that, as already indicated, a course given 
in this version of the saga is a most unsatisfactory piece 
of evidence on which to found an important conclusion. 
Moreover, Eric s Saga is silent as to this deflexion to 
the south-east, which consequently rests upon H auk s 


unsupported authority. This editor may merely have 
thought that, as the island next mentioned lay to the 
south-east, such a course was necessarily implied. 

On this island off the shore of Markland to the south 
east we are told that the explorers killed a bear, con^ 
ferring in consequence the name Bjarney (Bear Island) 
on the place in question. It has been generally assumed 
that this must necessarily mean a polar bear. But Karl- 
sefni was acquainted with Norway, where the European 
bear still exists and must then have been common, so 
that one would think that a bear which was not white 
would equally be called a bear. I would further sug 
gest that this would be the case even if no bears other 
than the polar species had previously been known to 
members of the expedition. But secondly, supposing 
a polar bear to be meant, there does not seem any violent 
improbability in the idea that one should be found, 
in the eleventh century, so far south as Nova Scotia. 
At a far later date, Arctic fauna had a much more 
southerly habitat than at present. Walrus were regu 
larly hunted in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, as is shown 
by a number of passages in Hakluyt. As to the polar 
bear itself, its restriction to its present northerly habitat 
appears to be even more recent. In Labrador, as far 
south and inland as Eagle River Falls, Sandwich Bay, 
Captain Cartwright records in his diary under date July 
22, 1778 : Numbers were in sight. I counted thirty- 
two white bears, and three black ones ; but there were 
certainly many more. In earlier days Jacques Cartier 
found a polar bear between Newfoundland and the 
Funk Islands, while both Cabot and Corte Real found 
the same animal on what was probably Newfoundland, 
and cannot certainly have been far north of it. It may 


further be pointed out that white bearskins are men 
tioned more than once in the Algonquin Legends of New 
England and Nova Scotia, collected by C. G. Leland. 
As to. bears on islands, whether white or black, Cartier 
found them on Brion Island, so there is no improbability 
in this feature. If a polar bear is meant, Sable Island 
seems a possible location for Bjarney, but in any case 
there are many islands off the Nova Scotiari coast 
which would fulfil the conditions. 


Until, however, the expedition reaches Keelness, we 
are on very uncertain ground, and it would be im 
prudent to insist upon any definite conclusion. We may 
in fact, at this stage, so far as our information hitherto 
has taken us, be either at the north-eastern extremity 
of Nova Scotia or in the vicinity of Cape Cod, according 
as our identification of Helluland and Markland 
agrees with Storm or otherwise. We may however 
fairly say that the choice lies between these two 
localities. Any other theory breaks down at the first 
touch of criticism. 

But when the description of Keelness given in the 
saga is compared with what we know of the Nova 
Scotian coastline, one meets at once with a very 
formidable objection to Storm s theory. For here 
began Furdustrands, the Wonderful Beaches, so called 
from their great length, and thus described : * It was 
a desolate place, and there were long beaches and 
sands there. . . . They gave the beaches a name, calling 
them Furdustrands, because the sail past them was 
long. It appears too, as already hinted, that this 
feature was sufficiently marked to give rise to the 


application of the name to a large district, extending 
at least to Straumsfjord (cf. second song of Thorhall 
the Hunter, see also p. 227). 

Mr. Babcoc&s Theory. 

Now the coast of Nova Scotia cannot, to an unpre 
judiced eye, be said to comprise any continuous beach 
of a really remarkable length. On the contrary, it is 
both indented and rocky. Mr. Babcock clearly sees 
this difficulty ; his remarks on the subject have been 
already referred to (p. 234). He requires a continuous 
stretch of at least 100 miles for Furdustrands, and this 
estimate compares favourably with those put forward 
by Storm and most of his adherents. Now, to meet 
the objection which is here raised, Mr. Babcock postu 
lates a rise in the Nova Scotian coastline since the 
eleventh century sufficient to account for what is other 
wise a fatal discrepancy in its present appearance. He 
frankly admits that there is no direct evidence of such 
a phenomenon, and indeed that locally there is some 
scientific opinion that this probably has not occurred . 
But this is not the most that can be said. In the first 
place, the early explorers who followed on the redis 
covery of the country found the coast exactly as it is 
to-day. The upheaval postulated must therefore have 
taken place, if at all, within an even shorter period 
than that allowed by Mr. Babcock. Thus Champlain 
writes : * All the coast which we passed along from 
Cape Sable to this place (Canso) is moderately high 
and rocky, in -most places bordered by numerous 
islands and breakers. Of Cape Breton Denys says 
(Green Island to Louisburg), All the coast is nothing 
but rocks/ Thenceforward nothing but rocks is 


a phrase constantly repeated, but one looks in vain 
for any mention of a beach. Later on, leaving there 
(St. Ann s harbour) and going to Niganiche (Ingonish) 
one passes eight leagues of coast having shores of rock 
extremely high and steep as a wall. . . . Niganiche is 
not a bit better/ Similarly right on to Cape North. 
We have not much room left for these long and 
wonderful beaches, which so struck the Norsemen 
immediately on their arrival at Keelness, and which 
were so impressively long to sail past. It is true, as 
we have seen, that there are white sands near the 
south-western end of the peninsula, but the numerous 
indentations break up the coastline, and besides, the 
description requires a cape facing a ship approaching 
from more northerly latitudes. 

In the second place, had there been such a change 
as that suggested by Mr. Babcock, at so recent a date, 
there must necessarily have been positive geological 
evidence of it. When a beach rises from the sea, 
particularly if it be of such great extent as is required 
in the present case, traces of the former sea-level 
remain, in the form of raised beaches, water-worn rocks, 
or remains of marine fauna. In Nova Scotia such 
things are found indeed, but dating from a period far 
antecedent to that with which we are at present con 
cerned. The formation appears to be contemporaneous 
with the existence of some form of mammoth, whose 
remains have been found, and in many places the 
course of these beach-deposits is cut through by river 
valleys which have been formed since. (See Dawson, 
Acadian Geology?) Now if these vestiges, dating from 
a period antecedent to the existence of human remains, 
are still to be traced, it is clearly impossible that no 


evidence should survive of what is alleged to have 
happened at a date which is, geologically speaking, 
yesterday. Mr. Babcock s theory must accordingly be 
abandoned, in spite of his careful, ingenious, and 
elaborate argument, and, this being so, we are still 
faced with an insuperable difficulty in the way of 
associating Furdustrands with Nova Scotia. 

Cape Cod as Keelness. 

Now let us turn to the alternative suggested, and 
consider Cape Cod to be Keelness. Karlsefni has 
now indeed been brought to a coast meriting the name 
bestowed, * a desolate place, with long beaches and 
sands. Not only does the Cape Cod or Barnstable 
peninsula, as Horsford saw, comply with the descrip 
tion, but beyond this point the name Furdustrands 
might appropriately be applied to nearly the whole 
Atlantic coastline of the United States. Passing the 
shores and sand-hills of Cape Cod and Monomoy, from 
Chatham at the heel of the promontory to Nobska 
Point at the entrance to Buzzard s Bay, the coast, as 
the United States Pilot describes it (p. 341), is low 
and sandy. If the course lay to the south of Nantucket 
and Marthas Vineyard the same description .would 
apply. Here there is a slight break formed by the 
indentations of Buzzard s and Narragansett Bays, but 
the former is masked from the sea, until passed, by the 
Elizabeth Islands, and the latter by the islands at its 
mouth ; the prospect throughout was an unattractive 
one, and these bays, from the sea, might easily pass 
unnoticed, while from Point Judith, west of Narra 
gansett Bay, to the entrance of Long Island Sound, by 
Watch Hill Point, there is still, in the words of the 


Coast Pilot, a low beach with lagoons inside and 
higher wooded land at the back. Until arrival at 
Straumsfjord, no attempt was made to land. As 
Mr. Babcock notices, the episode of Hake and Hekja 
is obviously an interpolation from another source, as 
no vines had been found up to the time of Thorhall s 
versified comments on the subject. We have con 
sequently to look for but one indentation, that presented 
by Straumsfjord. The answer to Mr. Dieserud s 
objection to Cape Cod that the wild grape flourishes 
there close to the sea, and must therefore have been 
found, is that no landing was made there. 1 Karlsefni, 
unattracted by the prospect, sailed on, and consequently 
the discovery was deferred. * They went their ways, 
till interrupted by a fjord , so one might almost in 
terpret the language of the saga. In any case, the 
likeliest fjord to attract attention on a coasting voyage 
would be one lying right in the track of the ship. And 
such a fjord, if my conjecture is right, was Straumsfjord. 


Dead in the course of a ship following the coast 
westward from Cape Cod lies Long Island Sound. 
Though not, strictly speaking, a fjord, it has, until the 
East River channel, leading to New York, is explored, 
exactly the appearance of one. It is very narrow at 
each end, and its greatest breadth, fifteen to sixteen 
miles, is only maintained for about twenty miles in its 
central part. Until the sound was explored by Adriaan 
Block in 1614, it was probably not known that Long 
Island was separated from the mainland. 

1 Unless we accept the story told to account for the name, Keelness. 
Even this would only be a very temporary landing, on the beach. 



At the mouth of the sound is an important island, 
Fisher s Island, with an extreme length of six miles, 
between which and the less important Gull Islands runs 
a strong tidal stream, appropriately known as the Race. 
This is sufficiently formidable to necessitate the warning 
of the Coast Pilot, Sailing vessels in the vicinity of 
the Race, or navigating along the southern side of the 
Sound near Gull and Plum Islands, should give them 
a wide berth when the ebb stream is running, or they 
may be drawn into one of the passages before aware of 
their danger/ There is always a strong tide-rip in 
the Race except for a period of about thirty minutes 
slack between the turn of the streams. 

Long Island is of interest to naturalists as a meeting- 
place for equatorial and arctic species of birds, and was 
a centre of the whaling industry as late as the first 
part of the nineteenth century, and Douglas, as already 
mentioned, in his Summary of the Planting of the 
British North American Settlements (1760) mentions 
specially that small whales affect the flats of Long 
Island. Altogether this sound appears to fulfil in every 
respect the requirements of Straumsfjord. The mainland 
immediately to the north of Fisher s Island is hilly, though 
the mention of mountains at Straumsfjord may have 
another significance, which will be dealt with later on. 

Now if we assume that the dispute between Karl- 
sefni and the unruly Thorhall took place on Fisher s 
Island or the mainland near it, the arguments of the 
two men would run somewhat as follows : Thorhall 
asserts that Leifs landfall in Wineland must lie to the 
north of Keelness (Cape Cod), because Leif could not 
possibly have arrived on the coast which the later 
expedition had just explored, after leaving Markland, 


without previously sighting land. Karlsefni, on the 
other hand, regarding Keelness as the northernmost 
extremity of the country, has observed that from that 
narrow promontory the land has widened indefinitely 
as its southern coast was explored, and his view that 
the region which lay more to the south was the 
larger may be paraphrased thus : the northern ex 
tremity of the country was obviously so narrow that 
Leifs landfall could hardly have passed unobserved, 
whereas, here, to the south, the country is of enormous 
extent, so that, while we know everything there is to 
the north, to the south we may find anything. This 
appears to me a more reasonable explanation of this 
rather obscure passage than Dr. Nansen s, viz. that it 
was evidently due to the assumption that it (Wine- 
land) was connected with Africa V Of such an assump 
tion no real trace can be found, except in a later 
Icelandic geography, * thence it is not far to Wineland 
the Good, which some think is connected with Africa. 
To a geographer, anxious to place his countries within 
the limits of the known world, such a theory would be 
eminently natural. Confused by classical notions of 
the all-encircling Mare Oceanum, and hampered by 
the limitations imposed by early religious orthodoxy, 
primitive science would tend to deny the possibility of 
land connected with the known world on the farther 
side of the Atlantic ; and to Africa, as the most 
westerly part of the world to the south of Iceland, the 
newly discovered lands would naturally be attributed ; 
but it is hardly likely that Karlsefni would be hampered 
by geographical theories at any rate there is no real 
trace of it in the saga. 

1 In Nor I hern Mists, vol. ii, p. 24. 


The Si (nation of Hop. 

Coming now to the furthest limits of Karlsefni s 
expedition, at Hop, it is obvious that we are provided 
in this case with a description which affords us more 
promising data than those with which we have hither 
to been forced to be content. If we combine the 
information given in Eric s Saga with that provided by 
the Flatey Book account of Leif s camp, which clearly 
refers to the same place, the description becomes even 
more distinctive. 

We need a land-locked bay, largely barred by shoals, 
guarded on one side of the entrance by a cape facing 
north, and on the other by an island, or something 
which might pass for one on a hasty visit. Into this 
bay a river must flow, which expands into a lake- 
like widening near its mouth, and then narrows, so as 
to divide the lake from the bay. This river must flow 
in from the north, as the Skrselings who visited the 
camp are said to have come from the south. A minor 
point, which is not so reliable as the remainder, is the 
mention of salmon in the river, which is included in 
the Flatey Book description. 

Now it is manifestly not every river-estuary or land 
locked bay which will conform to such a description in 
all, or even in nearly all, particulars. If therefore we 
find, in a suitable part of the American coast, a place 
which fulfils every one of these requirements, we may 
make our identification with something approaching 

Now if the entrance of Long Island Sound be 
accepted as the site of the Straumsfjord base, the 
furthest limit of the exploration, at Hop, can be made to 
fit the requirements of the story in a really remarkable 

S 2 


way. I am convinced that it is a mistake to look 
for all the places mentioned in Karlsefni s voyage 
within the restricted limits which seem to have con 
tented other students of the subject. It seems to me 
illogical, when we hear of voyages of two or three 
days covering very considerable distances, to suppose 
when the saga says, * they sailed a long time/ that we 
can be content to look for all the places mentioned in 
the course of a year s exploration within a few hours 
sail of one another. It took a long time to sail past 
Furdustrands, and it was a long way from Straumsfjord 
to Hop. The latter place is therefore to be sought 
about as far on from Straumsfjord as Straumsfjord was 
from Keelness. One has, moreover, to bear in mind, in 
searching for likely landfalls, that it is by no means 
every inlet which is likely to attract the notice of 
sailors on a coasting voyage. Openings which lie 
directly in their course, of which the situation selected 
for Straumsfjord is an example, are really far more 
likely to be explored. Now, about as far to the west of 
the entrance to Long Island Sound as Cape Cod lies 
to the east of it, the direction of the coast-line under 
goes an abrupt change. And exactly in the angle 
formed by this change of direction is a bay, fulfilling 
all the requirements of Hop. It is a land-locked 
estuary, largely barred by shoals, with a river running 
into it from the north, which widens into a lake among 
hills a short distance from the mouth. The approach 
involves a westerly course between a cape running 
north and an island. This is the bay or estuary of the 
Hudson River, constituting the modern approach to 
New York. 

This was described by its first recognized discoverer, 


Verezzano, in 1524, in the following words: We 
found a very pleasant situation among some steep 
hills, through which a very large river, deep at its 
mouth, forced its way into the sea. . . . We passed up 
this river, about half a league, when we found it 
formed a most beautiful lake, three leagues in 

Jtiet, in his account of Hudson s visit to the same 
place, describes the estuary itself as a lake, and adds, 
the mouth of that land hath many shoalds, and the 
sea breaketh on them as it is cast out of the mouth of 
it. ... To the northward off us we saw high hills. . . . 
This is a very good land to fall with, and a pleasant 
land to see . 

De Laet, in his account of Hudson s discovery, states, 
he (Hudson) found there also vines and grapes, . . . 
from all of which there is sufficient reason to conclude 
that it is a pleasant and fruitful country. Even the 
salmon, reported in the Flatey account of Leifs 
voyage, in which, as has been pointed out, the descrip 
tion is largely borrowed from Karlsefni s Hop, appear 
formerly to have existed here. At any rate, Hudson 
is stated to have found them in this river, both by 
Juet and De Laet. 

The Mountains at Hop. 

It is claimed that the analysis of Karlsefni s voyage 
which has been attempted above presents no real 
difficulty, and is open to far fewer objections than any 
alternative theory. It is inconsistent with no fact 
alleged in the saga with the exception of the southerly 
course, and this, as has been shown, has to be aban 
doned on any hypothesis. It is the only theory which 


really gets over the Furdustrands difficulty ; it pro 
vides a Straumsfjord and a Hop which are both 
inherently probable landfalls, and which correspond in 
every particular with the details given. It does not 
seem to me that nearly as much can be said for the 
accepted theory of Nova Scotia, or for any other 
alternative. One further point must now be referred 
to. At the end of the section of Eric s Saga and 
Hank s Book dealing with the last voyage and death 
of Thorvald Ericson comes a sentence which is quite 
differently rendered in the two versions. According 
to the Saga of Eric the Red, it runs, They intended 
to explore all the mountains, those which were at Hop, 
and those which they found/ Hauk, however, gives 
it as follows : They considered that the mountains 
which were at Hop and those which they now found 
were all one, and so were close opposite to one another, 
and that the distance from Straumsfjord was the same 
in both directions. The word translated * intended 
in the first case, and * considered in the second, is the 
same, and the first part of the sentence is therefore 
nearly identical in the original, except for the omis 
sion of the words at karma (to explore) in H auk s 

From this passage, as given by Hauk, it has been 
understood by Storm and some other authorities that 
after rounding Keelness the explorers came upon 
mountains which they imagined, rightly or wrongly, to 
belong to the same range as others which they had 
met with at Hop. 

Now the first point which occurs to one in this con 
nexion is that the passage in question had, at an 
earlier date than that of any extant manuscript of the 


text, already become so corrupt as to be unintelligible. 
We can hardly regard the later half of the sentence as 
a gloss by Hauk : it is not characteristic of his work to 
make so considerable an addition to the matter copied. 
Still less can we suppose that the compilers of Eric s 
Saga, who never retained any prejudice in favour of 
making sense of a passage, introduced the words to 
explore . It looks, in fact, as if at a very early date 
two inconsistent attempts had been made to interpret 
a phrase the meaning of which was already dubious. 
It is therefore a very dangerous passage on which to 
found any important conclusion. 

Secondly, as has been already suggested, the pas 
sage about Thorvald bears all the marks of an inter 
polation. It comes between two sentences referring 
to the return to Straumsfjord which lo ok as if the 
saga-writer were taking up the thread of his principal 
theme after a digression. It follows immediately after 
what is obviously information from a fresh source 
the passage beginning Some men say . It intro 
duces Thorvald suddenly for the first time, if we 
accept the purer version of Eric s Saga (cf. p. 126). 
It is embellished with a speech plagiarized from 
elsewhere, a form of treatment without parallel in the 
saga. Towards the end of the suggested interpolation 
the words * they went back are twice repeated in 
Eric s Saga. In these circumstances it seems fairly r 
safe to regard this passage as having formed no part 
of the original story. 

But if this be so, the sentence now under considera 
tion, which mentions Hop and Straumsfjord, cannot 
belong to the interpolated matter, but must be part of 
the original saga, and in this case it cannot refer to the 


topography of Thorvald s voyage, but to the relation 
between Straumsfjord and Hop. 

In the third place, it seems unlikely that unscien 
tific explorers would recognize two ends of a range of 
mountains as belonging to one another if separated by. 
a long sea-voyage ; the phrase J>at staediz mjok sva a 
(were therefore close opposite one another) seems to 
refer to a closer connexion, such as that of two sides of 
the same hill, which would be much more readily 

The conclusions to be drawn are therefore : 

1. The passage is too corrupt to allow of any impor 
tant argument being based on it. 

2. It is at least doubtful whether it refers to Thor 
vald s voyage at all. 

What follows is therefore put forward rather as an 
interesting suggestion than as a vital part of the main 
argument. But assuming that the sentence under 
consideration refers to the relation between Straums 
fjord and Hop, we know that mountains or hills were 
features of the landscape of both these places, and 
such features are not elsewhere specifically mentioned. 
If I am right in supposing Straumsfjord to be Long 
Island Sound and Hop the estuary or lower waters of 
the Hudson, it would be quite correct to say that hills 
visible from the one place would also be visible from 
the other. If, as seems probable, the camp or base at 
Straumsfjord lay near the island at its mouth, it would 
also be true to say that any such mountain would be 
about the same distance from that camp, whether 
approached via Long Island Sound or by a route to 
the south of Long Island. As the explorers did noth 
ing else, till the first winter at Straumsfjord, except 


investigate their surroundings, it is more than likely 
that they cruised sufficiently far up the sound to be 
able to see hills also visible from the Hudson valley. 
If this interpretation could be relied on it would there 
fore afford a strong confirmation of the topography 
suggested in this chapter, and I feel that this may be 
the correct explanation of the passage. It is safer, 
however, to treat the sentence as irremediably 
corrupt, and to conclude that the information it 
appears to contain may be a mere gloss, or may 
express a mistaken notion of the explorers. It is one 
of the many points as to which certainty is impossible, 
but it equally cannot afford a valid argument against 
theories which would otherwise be acceptable. 


And here , in the words of Eric s Saga, this story 
ends. The attempt at colonization had proved a 
failure ; the snows of Iceland and Greenland were 
thenceforward to be preferred to the chance of frequent 
collision with the Wineland Skraslings. No further 
attempt at a permanent settlement seems ever to have 
been made. 

It by no means follows that the newly-discovered 
countries remained unvisited. A land full of timber, 
lying but a few days sail from Greenland, where such 
a commodity was unobtainable, must almost certainly 
have tempted the members of Eric s small colony at 
any rate to occasional visits. Of these we could not, 
in the nature of things, expect to hear much. Always 
more or less isolated by its dangerous coast and the 
little-known sea which separated it from Iceland, 
Greenland became after 1294 almost entirely cut off 
from the land of saga by the Norwegian royal edict 
making trade with the former country a crown mono 
poly. The minor enterprises of the colonists were, 
moreover, of little or no interest to Icelandic audi 
ences. 1 

1 In an article on the fauna of Greenland by Herluf Winge 
(Meddelelser om Gronland, vol. xxi, p. 322), the author cites a list 
of furs said by Archbishop Erik Walkendorff of Trondhjem (circa 1516) 
to be obtained from Greenland. Many of the animals therein referred 
to are not properly attributable to Greenland, and Winge suggests 
that these skins may have found their way via Greenland to Trondhjem 
from America. 


Entries in the Annals. 

From the prevailing obscurity two attempts at 
revisiting the New World emerge in the Icelandic 
Annals. The first of these may indeed have been 
intended as a prelude to further efforts at coloniza 
tion. In 1 1 21, Eric, bishop of Greenland, sailed 
for Wineland. Of his intentions or subsequent fate 
nothing is known, but we may imagine a bold resolve 
to make an end of the one obstacle to settlement by 
converting the Skraelings to Christianity. Anyhow, 
Bishop Eric set out, and never returned, his episcopal 
seat being filled in a few years time. It is true that 
the bishop is credited by the Danish poet Lyskander 
(1609) with complete success both in his missionary 
and his colonial enterprise, but of this there is no 
evidence, and we must regard the statement as poetical 

The second visit recorded is of less importance, but 
may well have been more successful in its objects. In 
1347, we are told in the Annals, there arrived in 
Iceland from Greenland a ship, which struck the 
Icelanders as being of exceptionally small size. She 
had lost her anchor, but contained a crew of 17 or 1 8 
men, who had been to Mark-land, but on the way back 
to Greenland had been driven by stress of weather to 
the harbour where they arrived. 

Probably no very unique enterprise is here chronicled. 
It was but the accident occasioning the visit of this ship 
to Iceland which preserved this voyage from oblivion. 
Vixere fortes ante Agamemnona. 

77/6 New Land. 

No other clear reference is to be found to subsequent 


voyages to the lands named in the sagas of Wine- 
land. In 1285, however, the Annals mention a dis 
covery of New Land , which is variously recorded in 
different MSS. as follows, taken in order of date : 

1. Land was discovered to the west of Iceland. 

2. The Down Islands were discovered. 

3. Helgi s sons Adalbrand and Thorvald discovered 
the New Land. 

4. Helgi s sons sailed to the uninhabited parts of 

This discovery appears to have created no small stir 
at the time. The King of Norway was interested, and 
commissioned one Land- Rolf to go to Iceland and 
organize an expedition for exploring purposes. Rolf, 
according to the Annals, sailed to Iceland in 1290, and 
endeavoured to carry out his instructions, but he does 
not seem to have succeeded in obtaining the requisite 
support, and his death in 1295 appears to have put an 
end to the project. 

Where was this New Land ? 

Storm, following the fourth authority, declares em 
phatically in favour of the east coast of Greenland. 
But, if this be the correct solution, it is difficult to 
understand the interest and excitement occasioned. 
Voyages to the uninhabited parts of Greenland were 
not unprecedented, but were bound to be quite 
unprofitable ; we may doubt, moreover, whether an 
isolated landfall on the east coast would have been 
dignified with the title of discovery of a New Land. 
What would be the object of further exploration ? 
Down would hardly provide a sufficient incentive ; the 
Iceland eiders must then as now have provided it in 
plenty. With lapse of time the supposed position of 


the New Land may have become displaced, as we 
have seen was eventually the case with Furdustrands. 
(See further, on this point, p. 294.) But even if we 
accept it as true that Helgi s sons sailed in the direc 
tion of Greenland, it is quite possible that they were 
driven elsewhere. On the whole, then, there seems 
more than a possibility that this allusion has reference 
to some part of the American coast, though from the 
very fact that it was treated as a new discovery it 
seems improbable that the actual lands visited by 
Karlsefni and his predecessors are here in question. 

The Honen Runes. 

There is another possible reference to a Wineland 
voyage, though it must in any case have been an 
unsuccessful one. At Honen in Ringerike there existed 
in 1823 a stone with an undoubted runic inscription, 
which was fortunately copied in that year. The stone 
subsequently disappeared. As is the case with many 
runic inscriptions, the interpretation is doubtful, but 
it has been thus rendered by Professor Bugge, of 
Norway : 

They came out and over wide expanses, and, need 
ing cloth to dry themselves, and food, away towards 
Wineland, up into the ice in the uninhabited country. 
Evil can take away luck, so that one dies early. (See 
In Northern Mists, vol. ii, p. 2j.) 1 

1 It is perhaps rash for an amateur to criticize the interpretation 
of an expert, but the numerous ands in the early part of the 
inscription suggest to my mind that the words between them should 
be names of persons. The stereotyped form for a memorial runic 
inscription usually begins with a list of the persons responsible for it, 
separated by and (auk = ok). The original, as read by Bugge, 
runs lit ok vitt ok ]>urfa J>erru ok ats , &c. 


If this is indeed a reference to an expedition to the 
Wineland with which we have hitherto been dealing, it 
is plain that the luckless explorers must have been 
driven far out of their course, probably to some part of 
Greenland, or possibly the arctic regions of Canada. 
They can never have revisited the temperate regions 
recorded by Leif and Karlsefni. 

Voyage of Harald Haardraade. 

Adam of Bremen s allusion to Wineland, already re 
ferred to (chapter i, p. 98), is immediately succeeded 
by the following report of a voyage undertaken by 
King Harald Haardraade, of which no other record is 

* After which island (Wineland) , said he (King 
Svein), no habitable land is found in that ocean, but 
all that is beyond is full of intolerable ice and utter 
darkness (immensa caligine). Of which matter Marci- 
anus thus bears record, saying, " Beyond Thule, one 
day s sail, the sea is frozen solid (concretum)" This 
was lately tested by the most enterprising Harald, 
prince of the Norsemen, who, when investigating 
with his ships the breadth of the northern ocean, 
hardly escaped with safety from the awful gulf of the 
abyss, by turning back, when at length the bounds of 
the earth where it ends (deficientis) grew dark before 
his eyes. 

Professor Yngvar Nielsen, in an article entitled 
Nordmaend og Skrae linger i Vinland (Norske Geogra- 
fiske Selskabs Aarbog for 1904), argues that the 
voyage here referred to was possibly another attempt 
to find Wineland. He sees, too, a possible connexion 
with the Honen runes, since Harald hailed from 


Ringerike, from which district the unknown hero of 
the inscription would seem also to have come. This 
connexion is evidently too fanciful to be taken seriously, 
though, if Harald s voyage had Win eland as its objec 
tive, the possibility is not altogether excluded. It 
is true that the voyage of the Norwegian king is 
reported in a context which links it closely with Wine- 
land, and it seems at first sight unlikely that Harald 
would have organized an expedition of so unprofitable 
a nature as a mere scientific exploration of the Arctic 
Ocean. On the other hand, the words * latitudinem 
scptentrionalis oceani perscriitatus do seem to suggest 
that the object was arctic exploration, and, since Adam 
considers Marcianus s remarks about the sea beyond 
Thule as relevant, we are not justified in conclud 
ing that Harald s voyage was any more intimately 
connected with the question of Wineland. Of the 
theory which associates Wineland with the arctic 
regions something remains to be said later. (See p. 294). 
Here we may merely observe that there does not 
appear to be any reliable evidence to connect Harald s 
voyage with the subject of Wineland, particularly as 
the experiences related, if they amount to more than 
a sailor s yarn, are suggestive of the ice-floes and long 
night of the Polar regions. 

Ideas of Icelandic Geography. 

An Icelandic geography preserved in various manu 
scripts of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries contains 
a reference to the lands discovered in America, which, 
in its fullest form, runs as follows : 

4 South from Greenland is Helluland, next to it is 
Markland, thence it is not far to Wineland the Good, 


which some men think is connected with Africa ; and, if 
so, then the outer ocean must fall in between Wineland 
and Markland. It is said that Thorfin Karlsefni cut 
a tree for a " husa snotra " (cf. Flatey Book account, 
p. 71), and after this went to seek for Wineland the 
Good, and came where this land was believed to be, 
but did not explore it or settle there. Leif the Lucky 
was the first to discover Wineland, and on that 
occasion he found merchantmen in danger on the sea, 
and rescued them by God s mercy ; he also introduced 
Christianity to Greenland, and it prospered so that an 
episcopal seat was placed there, at Garda. 

Part of this account claims to be founded on the 
information of Abbot Nicholas of Thingeyre, who died 
in 1 1 59. The references to Karlsefni and Leif appear 
rather to be confused summaries of the statements 
contained in the sagas. They can hardly be relied on 
to displace anything occurring in the records with which 
we have been dealing. 

As regards the relative position of the three 
countries, the geography knows nothing precise, except 
that Helluland lay to the south of Greenland, as stated 
in the Saga of Eric the Red. Probably it was known, 
or deduced from the information as to climate, that 
Markland and Wineland belonged to lower latitudes, 
and hence the error, reproduced in Eric s Saga, of 
imagining the course between all the lands to be 
uniformly south, was generally accepted. The writers 
of the geography do not, however, commit themselves 
to any such view. Apparently they knew more about 
Helluland and Markland than about Wineland, which 
looks as if the former had been more recently visited. 
They evidently knew that Helluland and Markland 
were not connected with Africa, while Wineland might 


be. With the way in which such a theory as the 
connexion between Wineland and Africa may have 
arisen I have already dealt (p. 274). The theory, it will 
be noticed, is mentioned in connexion with the ancient 
hypothesis of the all-encircling ocean, which long 
hampered geographical and cartographical science. 

Early Maps. 

We have to wait till a period subsequent to the 
re-discovery of America for the earliest known attempt 
to depict Wineland, and the two more northerly lands 
known to the Norsemen, in the form of a map. There 
exists, however, in the Royal Library at Copenhagen, 
a copy, made apparently about 1590, of a map drawn 
by Sigurd Stefansson, an Icelander, about one hundred 
years previously. The map is dated 1570, but it has 
been clearly proved that this is a mistake on the part 
of the copyist, and that the date must probaUy have 
been 1590 on the original map. The general lines of 
this map are here reproduced. With regard to the 
point marked A there is a note by the author 
betraying a knowledge of Frobisher s voyage in 1576, 
which is in itself sufficient to show the date, 1570, to 
be an error. 

A map drawn by Hans Poulson Resen in 1605 is 
also in existence which covers the same ground, and is 
so similar in most features that it has generally been 
accepted as being a mere copy of Stefansson s work, 
revised in the light of such information as more recent 
voyages could provide. The relevant features of this 
map are also here reproduced. 

Now, in the first place, there arises on consideration 
a very great difficulty in the way of adopting the 




current view, maintained by Storm and others, that 
the Eesen map is based on that of Stefansson. 
The inscription on Resen s work runs as follows : 
Indicatio Groenlandiae et vicinarum regionum, ver 
sus Septentrionem et Occidentem, ex antiqua quadam 
mappa, rudi modo delineata, ante aliquot centenos annos, 




ab Islandis, quibus tune erat ista terra notissima, et 
nauticis nostri temporis observationibus. 

The error in the date on the extant copy of 
Stefansson s map is manifestly the work of an 
unintelligent copyist, which makes it practically certain 
that the original was also dated ; moreover the note 
on the point A, to which allusion has been made, is 

T 2 

292 AFTER M A T H 

stated to be by Stefansson himself, and must therefore 
in all probability have been attached to the original. 
In any case it must have been made about the same 
time, for the author of the map was drowned in Iceland 
not long after the date of its production. It seems, 
therefore, practically impossible that Resen, with such 
evidence of recent composition before him, could have 
described as a map made some centuries ago a work 
so nearly contemporaneous with his own. He could 
not have, in fact, formed any such conclusion, and there 
would be no point in falsely ascribing to his source an 
origin which detracts from its authority. Again, though 
neither work is a masterpiece, Sigurd Stefansson s 
production compares quite favourably in point of finish 
with Resen s, and could therefore hardly be stigmatized 
by the latter author as rudi modo delineata. The 
form, moreover, of Hvitserk in Greenland is more 
complicated in Resen s map than in the earlier work, 
and, as the cartographer could have had no modern 
source from which to correct this feature, it is difficult 
to suppose that its form is borrowed from Stefansson. 
Finally, Resen introduces in his map such place-names 
as Ericsfjord, Vesterbygdsfjord, and Osterbygd, which 
do not occur in Stefansson, and are not derived from 
the work of later discoverers. 

In fact, all the evidence confirms the probability that 
both Resen and Stefansson worked, not one from the 
other, but both from a common source, of earlier date, 
which may well have been made, as Resen claims, 
ante aliquot centenos annos, and was, if so, pre- 

Now, if the two maps are independent of one another, 
the common source must clearly have contained, not 


only the representation of Greenland which is found in 
both, but equally the representation of Helluland, 
Markland, and Wineland, which shows, allowing for 
revision in the light of later exploration, almost as 
marked similarity. Unless, then, the mapping of these 
lands is merely based on the contemporary interpreta 
tion of the sagas, we have here fresh evidence of 
subsequent voyages, if not to the lands explored by 
Karlsefni, at least to some parts of North America 
which became confused with them. 

The hypothesis that the land-forms are merely 
drawn from a reading of the sagas is that adopted by 
Storm. It is difficult, however, to account in this way 
for such a feature as the south-easterly trend from 
Markland to Wineland, which distinctly conflicts with 
the sources which we have been following. There is, 
moreover, as will be seen by a comparison with the 
map on p. 291, a striking resemblance to the actual 
form of Baffin Land and northern Labrador, the shape 
of the latter peninsula especially in Resen s map being 
remarkably accurate in points not traceable to any map 
of the period known to me. The indications of Ungava 
Bay and Cape Chidley in particular are features 
unrepresented by contemporary cartographers, and 
though Labrador is much too small in proportion to 
the two main peninsulas of Baffin Land, this is what one 
would expect from crude and early representations, 
which are apt to devote more space to well-known than 
to less-known places. It is quite clear, in any case, 
that both Stefansson and Resen considered that their 
maps represented Baffin Land and Labrador, and this 
argues a better knowledge of the appearance of these 
localities than other cartographers of the period seem 

294 AFTER M A T H 

to have been able to derive from the reports of explorers. 
On the whole, then, I incline to the view that these 
maps are evidence of voyages to America subsequent 
to those of which we have any record. 

What then ? Must we discard all the conclusions 
hitherto arrived at, and adopt those of the Labrador 
school which we have rejected so unhesitatingly and 
for such formidable reasons ? By no means. It is 
quite in accordance with precedent that a confusion 
should have arisen in the identification of places 
visited by early explorers, and that Baffin Land and 
Labrador, when visited by later Norsemen, should 
have been wrongly assumed to be the lands discovered 
and described by their predecessors. Thus Frobisher s 
discoveries in Meta Incognita were for a long time 
supposed to be situated in Greenland, while the latter 
country, and not that which now bears the name, was 
the original Labrador. 

To suppose that the old Norsemen, with a possibly 
imperfect recollection of the sagas, should have 
identified Labrador with Wineland is to accuse them 
of no grosser error than that committed by many 
modern critics of the subject, to whom the whole of the 
relevant evidence was readily accessible. The reader 
can hardly have failed to notice that some such 
confusion as is here suggested must, at a very early 
date, have taken place. Whereas the sagas themselves 
speak clearly of southerly latitudes and a temperate 
climate, the later tradition and such records as we 
have of. possible later voyages indicate an idea that 
Wineland was to be found in the Arctic Regions. 
Thus, the Honen runes speak of ice in the uninhabited 
regions , Adam of Bremen associates Wineland with 


intolerable ice and frozen seas, the New Land is 
identified in the later MSS. of the Annals with the 
wilds of Greenland, and Furdustrands becomes a region 
uninhabitable on account of frost (see p. 227). 

It is not difficult to see how such ideas may have 
arisen in Iceland and European Scandinavia. The 
maps under consideration supply us with a probable 
clue. Greenland is quite wrongly oriented, with its 
southern extremity pointing south-east instead of south, 
or, as a compass-chart would have represented it, 
considerably to the west of south. The cartographer 
has evidently been misled by the names Western and 
Eastern Settlement, conferred on the colonies at 
Godthaab and Julianehaab respectively, which are, in 
fact, more or less north and south in relation to one 
another. The confusion produced by this inappropriate 
nomenclature persisted down to very recent times. 
The effect of such an error is to suggest to intending 
explorers that land which really lies to the west 
of Greenland may be reached by sailing in a direction 
which is actually north. Although I have suggested 
another reason for Karlsefni s alleged visit to the 
Western Settlement before setting out on his travels, 
it is always possible, as Dr. Nansen says (vol. i, p. 321) 
that this too is a mistake on the part of the saga- 
writer, based on the not unnatural assumption that the 
Western Settlement lay due west of the Eastern, and 
was therefore the nearest point to Wineland instead 
of the farthest from it. The unduly shortened distance 
in the saga between Greenland and Helluland (two 
daegr) may possibly be explained in the same way, and 
in this case the Bear Islands may actually mean Disko. 
(Cf. Chapter VIII, p. 262). If so, however, one would 

296 A F T E R M A T H 

have to suppose the saga-writer to have had access to 
the report of some subsequent explorer, who, sailing 
from Disko, had touched or sighted the Cumberland 
peninsula of Baffin Land, and the earlier part of the 
record of Karlsefni s voyage would have to be rejected, 
in so far as it purported to represent historically the 
experience of that explorer. 

Now if, from a misunderstanding, of the true 
orientation of the Greenland peninsula, Icelandic or 
Norwegian sailors got the idea that it was necessary to 
follow the Greenland coast in order to approach the 
countries discovered in America, it is easy to see how 
they might bring back reports of ice and arctic 
conditions, and possibly of parts of Baffin Land and 
northern Labrador, which might thus become identified 
with the lands discovered by Leif and Karlsefni. 

The Icelandic geography referred to above conveys, 
as already stated, an impression that while countries 
identified with Helluland and Markland had been 
visited, Wineland had been sought for in vain, and its 
exact situation was at the time of writing unknown. 
This is quite intelligible if later explorers had, for the 
reason suggested above, confined their search to more 
northerly latitudes. 

Whilst, then, these early maps are of no use as 
authorities whereby we may unravel the problems of 
the original Wineland voyages, I think that they are 
of considerable interest both as affording evidence of 
later Scandinavian voyages to America, and also as 
providing a solution of the way in which the mistaken 
idea which associated Wineland with the north may 
have come into existence. 



The data being now exhausted, it only remains 
to bid farewell to our explorers. Comparisons are 
proverbially odious, and it is futile to bring Columbus 
and his successors into the question. Karlsefni and his 
contemporaries were as discoverers born out of due 
time. With the general interest which was felt in explor 
ation in the fifteenth and following centuries, with kings 
to back them and states to develop their discoveries, 
above all, with an armament immeasurably superior to 
that of the natives, such as the later explorers 
possessed, these simple Norse seamen might have 
attained a far wider fame, or even have affected the 
course of history. As it was their deeds were unim 
portant, and soon almost if not quite forgotten. To-day 
the man in the street looks incredulous or astonished 
at the very mention of the Wineland voyages, however 
well authenticated these are seen to be by the student 
of the subject. A little less scepticism, a little less 
complete oblivion is all that shall be asked for them 


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Boston, 1841. 
Beazley, C. R. Dawn of Modern Geography. London, 1901. 

Articles Leif Eric son and Thorfinn Karlsefni in Encyclo 
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Bruun, D. Erik den Rode. Copenhagen, 1915. 

Cornhill Magazine. Article in vol. xxvi. London, 1872. 

De Costa, B. F. Pre-Columbian Discovery of America by the Northmen. 

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Dieserud, J. Norse Discoveries in America. Bulletin of the American 

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Du Chaillu, P. B. The Viking Age. London, 1889. 
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Fischer, J. Die Entdeckungen der Normannen in A merika. Freiburg i. B., 

1902. (English translation by B. Soulsby, 1903.) 
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Forster, J. B. History of voyages, 6<r. made in the North. London, 

Haliburton, R. G. Article in Proceedings of The Royal Geographical 

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Hewlett, M. Gudrid the Fair (fiction based on the sagas). London, 

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The Problem of the Northmen. Cambridge, Mass., 1889. 

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Hovgaard, W. The Voyages of the Norsemen to America. New York, 

Howley, M. F. Vinland Vindicated. Proc. and Trans. Royal Society 

of Canada, 1898. 
Irving, Washington. Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus. 

vol. iv. London, 1828. 
Jonsson, Finnur. Erik den Rode s Saga og Vinland. Historisk 

Tidskrift. Christiania, 1911. 

Opdagelsen of og reiserne til Vinland. Aarbog for Nordisk 

Oldkyndighed, &c. Copenhagen, 1915. 


Kolischer, K. A. Zur Entdeckungsgeschichte Amerikas. Mitt. K. K. 

Geographischen Gesellschaft, Vienna, 1914. 
Laing, S. Translation of Heimskringla. London, 1844. 
Malte-Brun, C. Precis de la geographic universelle, vol. i, book 18. 

Paris, 1831-7. 
Moultoh and Yates. History of the State of New York. New York, 


Nansen, F. In Northern Mists. London, 1911. 
Neckel, G. Erste Entdeckung Amerikas. Leipzig, 1913. 
Nielsen, Y. Nordmxndog Skr deling er i Vinland. Norske Geografiske 

Selskabs Aarbog, 1905. 
Olson, J. E. The Northmen, Columbus and Cabot. New York, 1906. 

Article Vinland in Encyclopaedia Britannica. 
Rafn, C. Antiquitates Americanae. Boston, 1837. 
Reeves, A. M. The Finding of Wineland the Good. London, 1895. 
Schroeder. Om Skandinav ernes fordna upptacktsresor till Nord 

Amerika. Upsala, 1818. 

Slafter, Rev. E. F. Voyages of the Northmen to America. Boston. 
Smith, J. T. The Discovery of America bv the Northmen in the tenth 

Century. London, 1839. 
Steensby, H. P. The Norsemen s Route from Greenland to Wineland. 

Copenhagen, 1918. 
Storm, G. Studier over Vinlandsreiserne. Aarbog for Nordisk 

Oldkyndighed og Historic, Copenhagen, 1887. 

Islandske Annaler indtil 1578. Christiania, 1888. 

Erik s Saga Rauda. Copenhagen, 1891. 

Thalbitzer, W. Skrwlingerne i Markland og Grbnland, deres sprog og 

nationalitet. Oversigt over det Kgl. Dariske Videnskabernes 

Selskabs Forhandlinger, Copenhagen, 1905. 

Four Skrseling Words from Markland in the Saga of Erik the 

Red. London, 1913. 

Torfaeus, T. Historia Vinlandiw Antiquw. Copenhagen, 1705. 

Veteris Groenlandide Descriptio. Copenhagen, 1706. 

Vigfusson, G. (and York Powell, F.) An Icelandic Prose Reader. 

Oxford, 1879. 
Vigfusson, G. (and York Powell, F.) Origines Islandicx. Oxford, 


Weise, A. J. Discoveries of America to 1525. London, 1884. 
Winsor, Justin. History of America (vol. i). London, 1889. 


Adam of Bremen, 49, 97, 156, 286. 
Annals, Icelandic, no, 137, 146, 

Ari Marsson, 96, 189. 
Ari the Learned, 74, 87, 93, 120, 

156, 173-7- 
Aud the Very Wealthy, 28, 87, 103, 

Avalldamon, 65, 188. 

Babcock, W. H., 7, 103, 186, 199, 
234, 235, 236, 252, 254, 262, 263, 
268-70. A 

Bacchus, lie de, 159. 

Balista, 62, 184-6, 194. 

Bardson, Ivar, sailing directions of, 
199, 204. 

Barn, discovered by Thorvald s 
expedition, 46, 48, 160. 

Barnstable Peninsula, 246, 248, 253, 
257, 258, 270. 

Bear, killed on Bjarney, 56, 266. 

Bear Isles, 56, 262, 295. 

Bede, the Venerable, 191, 209. 

Birds, on Straumsey, 57, 154, 168-71. 

Bjarney, 56, 228, 238, 265-7. 

Bjarni Grimolfson, companion of 
Karlsefni, 53, 55, 58, 60, 64 ; con 
fused with Herjulfson, 105 ; not 
mentioned in Flatey Book, 143. 

Bjarni Herjulfson, discovers Ameri 
ca, 25-8 ; in Norway, 40 ; sells 
ship to Leif, 40; distinguished 
from Grimolfson, 105 ; authen 
ticity of voyage, 114-18; course 
of voyage, 131; Mr. Hovgaard 
on, 238 ; reconstruction of voyage, 

Bjorn Asbrandsson, 190. 

Bjorn, Bishop, descendant of Karl 
sefni, 19, 20, 72, 86. 

Blaserk, 22, 112. 

Brand I, Bishop, descendant of 
Karlsefni, 72, 86, 101-2, in, 137. 

Brattahlid, 25, 37, 39, 40, 44, 45, 
52-5, 135, 138, 141- 

j Brendan, Saint, voyage of, 162, 168, 

171, 184. 

Bull, Karlsefni s, frightens savages, 
62, 83, 194. 

Cabot, 9, 221, 266. 

Canoes, 46, 61, 95, 107, 174, 177-9, 

Cartier, Jacques, 107, 158, 170, 179, 

183, 192, 226, 231, 266, 267. 
Cartvvright, Captain, 240, 266. 
Celtic literature, influence discussed, 

154, 162-72, 184, 187, 191. 
Champlain, 48, 159, 170,236, 256, 

Charlemagne, character of traditions 

concerning, 1 16. 
Cloth, red, coveted by skra:lings, 

61, 183-4, 194. 
Cod, Cape, 248, 256-9, 265, 267, 

270, 273, 276. 
Corn, wild, 48, 57, 60, 76, 98, 107, 

158, 159-62, 226, 229, 240. 
Corte Real, 9, 221, 265, 266. 
Courses, 107, 131, 222, 232, 239, 

242, 258, 259, 265. 
Crossness, 47. 

Dcegr, meaning discussed, 196-211. 
Dasent, Sir George, 148. 
Dawson s Acadian Geology, 269. 
De Laet : see Hudson. 
Denys, Nicholas, 159, 170, 179, 

Dicuil, 191. 

Dieserud, Juul, 104, 234, 258, 271. 
Down Islands : see New Land. 
Dublin, 28, 66. 

Eggs, on Straumsey, 58, 168-71. 

Eric, Bishop of Greenland, 18, 152, 

Eric the Far-Travelled, 1 10. 

Eric the Red, adventures in Iceland 
and discovery of Greenland, 21- 
4; children, 25, 37; receives 



Thorbjorn Vifilson, 37 ; slow to 
change faith, 39; asked to ac 
company Leif, 40 ; accident to, 
41, 78; death alleged, 45; un 
converted, 47; entertains Karl- 
sefni, 53 ; in Eyrbyggja, 73 ; Ari s 
account of, 74, 94 ; bad opinion of 
priest, 75, 136; conversion al 
leged, 76 : accompanies Thor- 
stein, 79 ; problem of his death, 

Eric the Red, Saga of, 14, 100, 101, 

108, 141. 
Eyktarstad observation, 42, 107, 

123, 211-20, 225, 229, 243. 
Eyrbyggja Saga, 39, 66, 73, 190. 

Fern aid, Professor, 160, 229. 
Fischer, Joseph, 106, 115. 
Fisher s Island, 272, 273. 
Flags, Indian, 65, 183, 193. 
Flatey Book, 14, 100, 104-46, 238. 
Floamanna Saga, 136. 
Fortunate Islands : see Insulae For- 


Fostbrae^ra Saga, 138. 
Foxes, arctic, in Helluland, 56, 165, 

Freydis, daughter of Eric the Red, 

25; illegitimate, 55; courage of, 

62-3 ; second visit to Wineland, 

67 ; crime of, 70 ; independence 

of Flatey Book story of, 105 ; 

probability of story, 127. 
Frissbok, 74, 119. 
Frobisher, 178, 183, 184, 289. 
Froda miracle, 38-9. 
Furdustrands, 56, 59, 60, 133, 227, 

233, 234, 236, 238, 240, 242, 267- 

71, 285, 295. 
Fur-trading by skraelings ol, 84, 

183, 194. 

Garda, site of Greenland Cathedral, 

25, 142, 288. 
Genealogies, Icelandic love of, 10, 

Geography, Icelandic, 241, 274, 


Godthaab, 23, 262, 295. 
Gosling, W., 181. 
Greenland, 16, 22, 74, 94, 139-46, 

149, 177, 261, 282, 284, 287, 288, 

Gretti s Saga, 53, 249. 

Gripla, 227. 

Gudrid, early history of, 30 ; helps 
the sibyl, 36 ; marriage to Thori, 
45, 134 ; to Thorstein Ericson, 
49? 79 5 to Karlsefni, 54, 83 ; son 
born in Wineland, 64 ; later his 
tory and death of, 72; descen 
dants, 86 ; heroine of Saga of 
Eric, 142. 

Gunnbjorn, 22, 117, 118. 

Hake and Hekja, 57, 106, 151, 167, 

Hakluyt, 169, 178, 179, 231, 236, 

250, 266. 

Hahburton, R. G., 113. 
Halibut, 60, 171. 
Hallbera, Abbess of Reynisness, 19, 

20, 87, 102. 

Hall-beams (setstokkar), 21, 24. 
Harald Haardraade, 90, 286. 
Hauk Erlendson, 19, 20, 87, 96, 


Heimskringla, 94, 113, 120, 138,199. 
Helgi Thorbrandson, 24, 116. 
Helgi and Finnbogi, 67-70. 
Helluland, 41, 56, 165, 167, 172, 

227, 230-1, 235, 238, 251, 263-5, 

287, 288, 290, 295, 296. 
Henderson s Iceland, 212-13. 
Herjulf, 1 6, 2-4, 25, 114. 
Hewlett, Maurice, his Giidrid the 

Fair, 7-8. 

History, character of early, 150. 
Honen runic stone, 285, 286, 294. 
Hop, 60, 64, 108, 162, 223, 228, 234, 

237, 238, 240, 242, 252, 272, 275- 


Horsford, E. N., 147, 235, 270. 
Hovgaard, W., 7, 114, 237-40, 262. 
Hudson, the Navigator, 48, 159, 

184, 187, 277. 
Hudson River, 272, 276. 
Husa-snotra, 71, 144, 146, 288. 
Hvarf, in Greenland, 202, 203-5, 

Hvitramannaland, 65, 97, 189-91, 

Hvitserk, 22, 290, 292. 

Imramha: see Voyage literature, 


Insulae Fortunatae, 98, 154-62. 
Ireland, 28, 60, 66, 154, 162-72, 




Isidore Hispalensis, 98, 154, 162. 
Islendingabok, 74, 87, 94, 173-6. 

Jan Mayen, 207, 208. 

Jokul, 238, 249. 

Jolduhlaup, 202, 205. 

Jonsson, Finnur, 7,40, 102, 108,264. 

Julianehaab, 23, 295. 

Karlsefni, Thorfin, ancestors of, 52 : 
comes to Greenland, 53 ; marries 
Gudrid, 54; sails to Wineland, 
55; expedition of, 52-67; in 
Flatey Book, 82-6; trades with 
Bremen merchant, 71 ; descen 
dants, 72, 86, 87 ; related to Ari, 
20, 93 ; mentioned in Landna- 
rnab6k, 97 ; ancestor of Hauk, 20, 
101, 103 ; an Icelandic hero, 116, 
1 1 8, 122 ; courses of voyage, 131 ; 
date of voyage, 18, 137, 261 ; Mr. 
Hovgaard on, 239, 240; voyage 
reconstructed, 261-81. 

Kayaks, Eskimo, 178, 181, 182, 194. 

Keelness, 46, 56, 59, 60, 77, 150, 
227, 238, 242, 258, 267, 270, 273, 
276, 278. 

1 King s Mirror , 177, 249. 

Kjafal, 57. 

Kolbein s island : see Mevenklint. 

Kolskegg, 96. 

Kristinret, 214, 218. 

Kristni Saga, 75, 120. 

Labrador, 228-31, 238-40, 242, 244, 
249, 25 1, 262-4, 290, 291 , 293, 294. 

Lamg, Samuel, 113, 128. 

Landnamabok, 21, 28, 96, 1 8 1, 189, 
201, 209. 

Land-Rolf, 284. 

Leif Ericson, born, 21 ; seduces 
Thorgunna, 37 ; converts Green 
land, 39, 74-6 ; goes to Wineland, 
40-5 ; alternative account, 76 ; 
lends houses to Karlsefni, 83; 
and to Freydis, 69 ; still a child 
in 986, 117 ; Flatey Book account 
of preferred, 1 1 8-25 ; course sailed 
by, 131 ; date of visit to Norway, 
134 ; Rorek sent to, 138 ; voyage 
discussed, 251-5. 

Leita , meaning of, 152. 

Long Island Sound, 271-4. 

Lyme-grass, 160, 161, 229. 

Maelduin, voyage of, 165-7, 1^4. 

Maize, 161. 

Maps of Wineland, early, 241, 289- 

Markland, 41, 56, 65, 166, 180, 188 


265, 283, 287, 288, 293, 296. 
Mausur (or mosur) wood, 71, 76 

146, 160, 229, 230. 
Melur : see Lyme-grass. 
Mevenklint, 207, 209. 
Midjokul, 22, 112. 
Milk, appreciated by sknelings, 84 
Moose-butter , 179. 
Morris convention in translating 

sagas, 12. 

Moulton s History of New York, 8 
Mountains at Straumsfjord anci 

Hop, 58, 64, 260, 277-81. 

Nansen, Dr. Fridtjof, 9, 133, 147-72, 
174-7, 1 80, 181, 183-8, 191, 265: 
274, 285, 295. 

Natives : see Skraslings. 

Neckel, G., 7, 106, 109, 253-4. 

Newfoundland, 230-3, 235, 237,238, 
240, 247, 249, 250, 264, 265. 

New Land, the, 283-5. 

Nicholas, Abbot of Thingeyre, 288. 

Nielsen, Dr. Yngvar, 286-7. 

NjaTs Saga, 90, 128, 148. 

Norway, significance of direct voy 
ages to, 144-5. 

Nova Scotia, 170, 179, 230, 233-6, 
247, 248, 251, 256, 257, 259, 265, 

Olaf the Holy, Saga of, no, 138, 


Olaf the White, 20, 28. 
Olaf Tryggvason, 37-8, 40, 57, 67, 

74-6, 109, 1 10, in, 118-22, 134, 


Olderfleet, 205. 
Oral tradition in Iceland, 88-93. 

Pamet River, 257, 259. 
1 Papar (Irish monks), 175-6. 
Parkhurst, Antony, on Newfound 
land, 231. 

Rafn, C., 147, 216, 219, 235. 
Rafn the Limerick-Farer, 190-1. 
Reeves, A. M., 10, in, 264. 



Remains, Norse, in America, alleged, 

Resen, Hans Poulson, map by, 289- 


Reydur (see whale). 
Rice, wild, 161. 
Rimbegla, 197, 200-1. 
Rolf: see Land- Rolf. 

Saga, erroneous ideas concerning, 

ii ; historical value of, 147-51; 

in Greenland, 55, 141. 
Saint Lawrence, Gulf of, 124, 266. 
Salmon, in Wineland, 42, 166, 275, 


Savages : see Skraslings. 
Scotland, partial conquest of, by 

Norsemen, 28. 

Seal-tar, specific against teredo, 65. 
Shenachies, 89, 92. 
Ships, Icelandic, speed of, 196-201, 


Sibyl, the, 11, 33-7, 142. 
Skraslings, 46, 61-3, 65, 74, 83-6, 

95, 154, 173-95- 
Snorri Godi, 18, 20, 73, 136. 
Snorri Karlsefnison, 18, 20, 64, 72, 

84, 86, 87, 94, 137. 
Snorri Thorbrandson, 22, 24, 53, 55, 

60, 61, 62, 64, 66, 73, 143- 
Steensby, H. P., 7, 124, 226, 237, 238, 

Stefansson, Sigurd, map by, 289- 

Storm, Gustav, 106, 113, 117, 124, 

132, 134, 144, 191, 202, 217, 224, 

230-4, 244, 259, 265, 267, 278, 

284, 293. 

Straumsey, 57, 168, 243, 273. 
Straumsfjord, 58, 64, 133, 228, 238, 

240, 242, 271-4, 279, 280. 
Sturlunga Saga, 99. 
Svalbarda, 202, 206, 207. 
Svein Estridson, king of Denmark, 

18,97, 156,286. 

Teredo, 65. 

Thalbitzer, W., 188. 

Thjodhild, wife of Eric the Red, 21, 

37, 39- 
Thorar Nefjolfson, 138, 199, 201, 

203, 248. 
Thorbjorg : see Sibyl. 

Thorbjb rn Vifilson, 14, 15, 20, 22, 

28-33,37, 55, 103,136. 
Thorbrand Snorrison, 63, 67. 
Thorgest, 21-3, 73, 100, 108. 
Thorgunna, 37-40. 
Thorhall Gamlison, 53 55. 
Thorhall the Hunter, 55, 59, 60, 77, 

107, 133, 155, 1 68, 226, 254, 268. 
Thori Eastman, 44-5, 49, 134. 
Thorkel Gellison, 20, 74, 93, 95, 

177, 190. 

Thorkel Leifson, 138. 
Thorlak, Bishop, descendant of 

Karlsefni, 18, 20, 72, 86, 87, 94, 


Thormod Kolbrunarskald, 77, 126, 
138, 187, 224. 

Thor-names, frequent occurrence of, 

Thorstein Ericson, 25, 37 ; marries 
Gudrid, 49, 79; sails for Wine- 
land, 40, 78 ; illness and death of, 
50-2, 80-2 ; driven near Iceland 
and Ireland,79, 125; supernatural 
episodes connected with, 50-2, 
80-2, 149. 

Thorvald Ericson, mentioned among 
Eric s children, 25 ; voyage of, 
in Flatey Book, 45-8 ; alternative 
account, 77 ; only mentioned by 
Hauk as Karlsefni s companion, 
55, 126, 279; accounts of death 
compared, 125-7 ; voyage recon 
structed, 255-60. 

Thorvard, husband of Freydis, 25, 
55, 69, 126, 129, 142. 

Three, recurrence of number, 153, 

Time-keeping, Icelandic method of, 

Tir-nan-Oge, in Celtic myth, 164. 

Torfaeus, 214. 

Trjona , meaning discussed, 181- 

3, 194- 
Troil s Letters on Iceland, 160, 168, 

199, 213, 220, 230. 
Tylft (Icelandic measure), 169, 

Tyrker, 41, 43, 44, 106, 150, 254. 

Umiak (Eskimo boat), 178. 
Uniped, 77, 126, 154, 187,224,259, 

Uvaegi, 65, 188. 



Vaetilldi, 65, 188. 

Valldidida, 65, 188. 

Var^Iokkur, 35. 

Verses, incidental, in sagas, 13, 14, 

25, 59.6o, 78, 133, 155, 168, 224, 

226, 260, 268. 
Verezzano, 180, 277. 
Vifil, 20, 29, 103, 142. 
Vigfusson, G., 90, 93, 96, 99, no, 


Vika (Icelandic measure), 197-8. 
Vines, discovery of, 43, 48, 57, 60, 

76, 97, 98, 154-9, 226, 253-5. 
Voyage literature, Celtic, 163-5, 


Whale, episode of, 58, 83, 104, 107, 
132-4, 150, 154, 167-8, 240. 

Wineland, 44, 74, 75, 95, 97, 98, 
155, 156, 159,225,227, 229,233, 
235, 236, 237-43, 251-3, 255-60, 
267-81, 283, 285, 287, 289-96. 

Winter, Icelandic, 216. 

Women, quarrels over, in Wineland, 
64, 105 ; characteristics of, 130. 

Yates : see Moulton. 

Yeats, W. B., his comparison of 

Celtic and Icelandic literature, 



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